Wednesday

16th Aug 2017

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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Young Poles can halt Kaczynski’s illiberal march

Debates are ongoing on whether president Duda vetoing two out of three bills on judicial reform should be seen as the opposition's success. But the protests brought about another, much less disputed success.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. UK unemployment lowest since 1975
  2. Europe facing 'explosive cocktail' in its backyard, report warns
  3. Danish police to investigate misuse of EU fishing rules
  4. German constitutional court questions ECB's €2tn spending
  5. Low support for Norway's labour party ahead of elections
  6. Slovakia's future is with core EU, says PM
  7. Italy relieved as migration drops to lowest level since 2014
  8. Eurozone industrial production slips

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  3. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  5. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  6. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  7. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  8. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  9. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  10. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  11. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  12. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  2. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  3. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  4. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  5. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  7. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  8. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  9. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  10. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy