Saturday

23rd Jun 2018

Opinion

All eyes on the FIFA World Cup - and on Russia

  • One of the stadiums that will host the FIFA World Cup in Russia (Photo: FIFA)

As the FIFA World Cup sets off, everyone's eyes will be on Russia.

There are, however, plenty of other reasons for Europe to watch Russia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Kremlin's warfare against European countries through direct attacks and through covert influence operations should be a concern to all leaders in Europe. Instead of calling for softer policies on Russia, we must demonstrate real leadership and stand up for our values of freedom, democracy and rule of law.

The Putin regime has dissolved democracy and rule of law in Russia.

We have seen many cases where the regime has imprisoned or murdered political opponents and journalists.

Oleg Sentsov launched a hunger strike for being a political prisoner. Sergei Magnitsky died for his investigation into Kremlin-linked corruption. Boris Nemtsov for his belief in democracy. Anna Politkovskaya for her independent journalism. The Russian regime even attacked the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with nerve gas in an EU member state.

All these individuals are part of a broader pattern of Russia's development under Putin.

The Chechen war. The war against Georgia. The invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops in Transnistria in Moldova. Military participation in the warfare against civilians of the Assad-regime. These unscrupulous acts show the regime's disrespect for human lives and international law.

An attempted coup in Montenegro. Disinformation, cyber-attacks and destabilisation attempts towards European countries. Military practices in the Baltic Sea region. Money laundering, financing of extremist parties in Europe and an assertive energy policy.

Weak EU is good for Russia

Russia wages war at all levels. Nothing would make the Kremlin happier than a weaker European Union.

Against this background, it is unbelievable that some leaders in Europe are calling for softer criticism against Russia and fewer sanctions in order to "improve relations".

Russia's policies completely disregard the spirit of good neighbourly relations.

The way to improve relations is not to make concessions to an aggressive Russia, but for Russia to stop attacking European democracies, withdraw its military troops from neighbouring countries and fulfil its Minsk obligations. Then we can build a mutually beneficial relationship based upon common principles.

In the meantime, Europe must strengthen its military capacities as well as its societal resilience, to be able to meet the current and future threats.

The EU and its member states should impose sanctions, inspired by the Magnitsky legislation, which would allow the freezing of assets in European banks for individuals who have committed severe human rights abuses. Such actions would target the elite whom Putin is dependent on and they would not affect the Russian people negatively.

In the European Union, we must complete the energy union and stop the political project Nord Stream 2 in order to secure energy independence.

We also need to strengthen our cyber defence and resilience against propaganda.

It is extremely worrisome that the Kremlin narrative has found its way to established European politicians who should know better. Whilst the extreme left and the extreme right continuously repeat the Kremlin narrative and praise the regime, us in the centre - be it centre left or centre right - must stand firm against Russian influences.

The Russia of today is run by a regime that puts might over right.

Vladimir Putin had since long secured his re-election by hindering potential opponents and with democracy losing. By increasing support for democracy, civil society and independent journalism in Russia, and build people-to-people contacts, we can build closer relations between the peoples of Russia and of Europe.

But Europe should never allow ourselves to become victims of the Kremlin.

We need to realise that we are operating in a long-term non-military conflict. We need a Russia policy based on reality and based on the threats we are facing.

We should not give Putin the success that he seeks in weakening the Union. In a world where autocrats are gaining more influence, the European Union must remain a strong defender of freedom, democracy and rule of law.

Gunnar Hokmark is head of the Swedish EPP delegation in the European Parliament

Analysis

Good day for Russia in Europe

Russian firm Gazprom is a reformed character, the EU commission has said, improving the climate for new pipelines to Europe.

Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China

There is not a single European company among the world's top 10 computer hardware companies. Within the EU, Germany and Sweden rank among world leaders, but Bulgaria and Slovakia among the worst-performing developed nations.

The risks behind the 'green bond' boom

The EU should not overuse the financial system in order to achieve environmental goals, or it risks the emergence of a green bond bubble which would be detrimental to the financial sector and hinder the achievement of climate targets.

EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'

The subject is mandatory by law in some form in nearly all EU countries - but it is mostly reproduction- and biology-centred, covering topics such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

EU needs comprehensive 'sexuality education'

The subject is mandatory by law in some form in nearly all EU countries - but it is mostly reproduction- and biology-centred, covering topics such as unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.

Long-distance animal transport: unthinkable still happening

A complete overhaul of animal products' supply chains is needed, privileging local food chains including local slaughtering which is proven to benefit the environment, the resilience of our economy, food safety and animal welfare.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us