Monday

21st May 2018

Opinion

No good news from Moscow

  • Moscow: The political reality is far from the 'strategic partnership' we mutually pretend to have established (Photo: Boris SV)

This week’s summit has already been downgraded to a brief encounter between the European Union and Russian leaders and will not be able to overcome the deep rift which is widening between the EU and Moscow.

The political reality is far from the "strategic partnership" we mutually pretend to have established.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The Russian Federation under Putin, despite the media charm offensive in the run-up to the Winter Olympics, has backtracked on democracy and the rule of law, and is run and governed by a regime more interested in feathering its own nest than improving the lives of Russian citizens and modernising its country.

The EU and its member states must change their rhetoric vis-a-vis Russia and drop the celebratory talk of "strategic partners - Putin's Russia does not share our democratic values and does not want to constructively engage with the EU beyond business and trade links.

However, despite Russia's often hostile actions against the EU and its own democratic opposition and urban middle class, we should not resort to painting the country as an enemy or as a threat.

Russia is, despite its size, not the hostile behemoth of the Cold War.

A new strategy

Lilya Shevtsova from Carnegie has rightly characterised Russia as a petro-state due to the interconnectedness of the authorities and business. Her analysis points to strong state intervention in the economy, systemic corruption, and the domination of large monopolies controlled by the central administration.

It is a set up which leaves Russia dangerously exposed to external economic shocks and with a huge income gap between rich and poor.

One of the major foreign policy challenges facing the EU over the next five years will be how to conduct its policy towards Russia in a way which allows for pragmatic co-operation and trade, while strengthening efforts to secure democratic reforms and to promote the rule of law.

The European Union is in urgent need of a new narrative on how to engage pragmatically but critically with an authoritarian Russia.

The next European Parliament should instruct the incoming new High Representative to draw up a new strategy to guide a more robust EU policy towards Russia. It must be made clear to Russia that the EU's only ambition is to spread stability and prosperity in its eastern neighbourhood - not to create new barriers and borders.

While the EU's policy towards Russia must become more critical and based on the full use of reciprocity against Russian actions designed to pick off EU member states, it is clear that we also must take more time to explain to Moscow that progress and cooperation is a win-win game.

In 2013 we witnessed Russia pursuing a combination of hostile economic and political measures towards the countries that were actively seeking a closer association and integration with the European Union.

Russia succeeded in blowing the Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit off course, but the EU's neighbourhood policy is still in place.

Russia imposed a series of targeted sanctions against Ukraine's exports designed to undermine the government commitment to finalise the Association Agreement with the European Union. As a response to these bullying tactics, we need to become faster and smarter.

I have called on the European Commission to draw up a list of possible responses to Russia's failure to meet its World Trade organisation commitments, both towards the European Union and towards the Eastern Partnership countries.

Sochi - better to stay at home

In parallel with a new EU-Russia policy framework, it is clear that the EU can and should play a stronger and more pro-active role in the search for political solutions to the frozen conflicts in its eastern neighbourhood and the EU’s External Action Service should come forward with an action plan for a renewed EU engagement in finding political solutions to these conflicts.

A number of European leaders have declared that they will not be attending the Sochi Winter Olympics next month.

I call on those yet undecided to take a close look at Russia's track record on democracy, the rule of law, respect for fundamental rights, and its discriminative attitude towards the LGBTI community - and to decide it is better to stay at home.

We have recently celebrated the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pussy Riot and Artic Rise activists.

These individual cases should not distract our attention from the systematic and worsening crackdown on human rights defenders, civil society and political dissent.

I am convinced the EU has leverage and influence and soft power to influence developments abroad.

However, for soft power to work, our engagement must be backed up by more robust measures when provoked or challenged.

The writer is the leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the European Parliament and a former Belgian prime minister

Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny

Most refugee-related services are outsourced to the private sector and NGOs, which are not adequately monitored and evaluated. When governments and EU institutions provide funding for refugee projects, they should scrutinise the NGOs and private players they work with.

Europe's last wild rivers under threat at Balkans summit

The EU is prioritising motorways and gas pipelines across the potential accession Western Balkan countries, plus hydropower energy projects which threaten one of the world's freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight