Sunday

16th Dec 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.

... or 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.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

Stakeholder

Time is ripe for an overhaul of the football transfer system

A new accreditation, registration and disclosure system is to be put in place to ensure that agents are regulated to the highest standards. Greater transparency relating to fees is to be introduced, with agents' commissions going through a clearing house.

Stakeholder

A touch of football at this year's G20 summit

FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressed the G20 leaders and placed football at their disposal as a powerful tool to help them address the challenges facing the world today.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders endorse creation of eurozone budget
  2. Selmayr has no comment on MEPs' call to resign
  3. May had 'robust' discussion with Juncker
  4. UK to continue talks on EU 'assurances'
  5. EU invests €20m in AI software for self-driving cars
  6. Belgian PM 'not optimistic', urges 'no deal' Brexit preparedness
  7. Romanian president expects no Brexit summit in January
  8. Swedish MPs reject Lofven to lead new government

Brexit, migration, cities - and the UN pact

It's not surprising that a handful of nationalist European governments – Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Italy – have followed Trump's lead in rejecting the UN's migration pact, to be formally adopted in Marrakech next week.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas
  2. EU leaders stuck on asylum reform
  3. Orban and other PMs spread fake news, says Juncker
  4. Fishing quota and no-deal Brexit preparation This WEEK
  5. Kosovo has right to own army, Germany and US say
  6. EU needs election-meddling stress tests
  7. Russian and US obstruction was 'insult' to climate scientists
  8. EU-27 unimpressed by May, offer little on Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us