Saturday

7th Dec 2019

EU to raise human rights with Russia amid visa-free hype

The European Commission on Wednesday (26 May) is set to raise concerns about human rights violations by Russian police less than a week ahead of an EU-Russia summit where Moscow is pressing for visa-free travel to Europe.

"In the discussions with my Russian colleagues, I will also bring up the importance of respecting fundamental rights and the rule of law," home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said on her website ahead of a trip to Kazan, where she is meeting Russia's justice and interior ministers. The discussions are part of the EU's regular talks with Moscow on how both sides can better co-operate on issues such as fighting drug and human trafficking.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Ms Malmstrom is due to flag up a particular case - that of a 36-year old lawyer who died in police custody in 2009 after representing a client accusing police officials of corruption and abuse. Human-rights groups last month demanded the opening of a criminal case into the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, accusing Interior Ministry officials being complicit in crime and torture.

The Swedish politician is planning to raise questions over the arrest and detention of Mr Magnitsky, especially focussing on the deprivation of medical care and the refusal of an independent autopsy after his death, as requested by his family.

"Furthermore, Russia wants to move forward in their talks with the EU on visa facilitation agreements, something that we from the EU side regard as closely connected with a list of demands and criteria," the commission official added.

The visa-free travel perspective for Russia has become something of a hot topic in Brussels. Most member states now agree that this should be done only in a "regional context" with countries such as Ukraine or Moldova also included in the scheme.

Diplomats preparing the EU-Russia summit due to take place on Monday (31 May) in Rostov-on-Don are wary of giving a clear path for visa liberalisation. So far, such a 'road-map' have only been granted to certain Balkan countries, already in line for EU accession.

Instead, it is likely that the summit conclusions will talk about an "action plan" for a visa-free regime, which entails no automatic lifting of visas once certain criteria are met.

The main reason for the downgrade are human-rights problems, flagged up not only by the commission and new member states, but also Germany and the Nordic countries.

Moscow, for its part, has tabled proposals for a "Partnership for Modernisation" with the EU, focusing mainly on the lifting of visa requirements and a "technology transfer" from the West. EU diplomats regard the move as an attempt at "cherry picking", ignoring less convenient demands by Brussels concerning democratisation, the protection of human rights and the fight against corruption.

However, the EU is keen to stick to negotiating a new Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) after the last one expired two years ago. The PCA contains many of the reforming elements that Moscow is less enthusiastic about adopting.

Georgia sceptical Russia can be 'friend' of Eastern Partnership

Georgia will not oppose Russia's participation on a case-by-case basis in EU's Eastern Partnership with six former Soviet republics, Georgian deputy prime minister Georgi Baramidze told this website, but is sceptical about Moscow's willingness to be "friends" with these countries.

Poland seeks robust EU-Russia policy

Keen to place itself at the centre of EU policy-making on Russia, Poland has flagged up some concerns over preparations for the upcoming summit in Rostov-on-Don.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Stalling on VAT reform costing billions, says Commission

German media outlet Correctiv, along with other newsrooms, have revealed how criminals annually cheat EU states out of billions in VAT fraud. The EU Commission says solutions exist - but member states refuse to budge on tax unanimity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us