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17th Jan 2021

Details emerge on new EU-Russia committee

  • Happy couple: Ashton and Lavrov at an EU-Russia ministerial in Moscow earlier this year (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Some EU governments have given a cautious welcome to proposals for a new EU-Russia security committee, as more details emerge about the surprise initiative.

Russia and Germany on Monday (8 June) circulated a five point plan for a new EU-Russia security committee, which was first unveiled at a bilateral summit in Germany over the weekend to the surprise of senior EU officials in Brussels.

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The Russian-German memorandum envisages a new body bringing together EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to "exchange views on current issues of international politics and security."

The committee would also "develop guidelines for joint civil/military operations" and "make recommendations" on "the various conflicts and crisis situations, to the resolution of which Russia and EU are contributing within relevant international formats."

Point four zooms in on the frozen conflict in Transniestria, Moldova, envisaging: "joint activities of Russia and the EU, which will ensure a seamless transition from the current situation to the final stage."

The office of EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton could not be contacted for a comment.

Senior officials in the EU Council and the EU Commission told EUobserver that they had not been formally consulted by Germany or Russia prior to the announcement. But the idea did not come out of the blue either.

"We had heard things vaguely from Berlin over the past couple of weeks," one official said.

A senior diplomat from one EU state said that Russia's willingness to work more closely with the EU on conflict resolution is "very positive." The source pointed to Russian air support for EU member states' soldiers in Chad in 2008 and noted that the recent EU-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don also made progress in the field with a bilateral agreement on sharing classified documents.

The German-Russian proposal would contribute another layer of meetings to an already crowded EU-Russia diplomatic agenda, prompting some EU countries to question its added value, however.

The EU and Russia currently meet twice a year at summit level. Ms Ashton and Mr Lavrov meet at least three times a year. The chair of the EU's Political and Security Committee meets with Russia's ambassador to the EU once a month. Numerous expert-level events, such as a twice-yearly human rights dialogue, also contribute to making the EU-Russia bilateral calendar the busiest of all its agendas with third countries.

"It [the new proposal] is interesting. But we already have multiple formats," a diplomat from another EU country told this website.

For its part, the pro-EU Moldovan government said in a statement that the German-Russian plan "opens promising perspectives" on Transniestria. But it added that any fresh efforts must "respect ... the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Previous Russian solutions for the conflict aimed to give Russian soldiers the right to stay on Moldovan territory indefinitely and to hand sweeping political powers in a re-uninified state to the Transniestrian authorities, which have strong links to the Russian secret service.

The Russian peace plans were put forward in 2003 and again in 2007 but rejected by Chisinau on both occasions following EU advice.

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