Tuesday

5th Mar 2024

EU institutions reach out to Moscow

  • Putin: Juncker 'regrets' closer EU-Russia ties 'have not been able to develop' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU Commission has proposed closer trade ties with Russia’s new economic bloc, as the EU Parliament invites back Russian MPs.

The Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, in a letter sent to the Kremlin after last week’s G20 summit in Turkey, and seen by the Reuters news agency, said he’s asked officials to draft new proposals on cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The decision on the circumstances in which to proceed along this path is in the hands of the member states of the European Union and should in particular be synchronised with the implementing of the Minsk agreements," he wrote, referring to the Minsk ceasfire accord on Ukraine.

He voiced “regret” that closer EU-Russia ties “have not been able to develop over the past year.”

"I can assure you that the European Commission will be a helpful partner in this process," he added.

For its part, the EU Parliament, earlier this week, also broke its taboo on hosting Russian visitors.

The Socialist group invited two senior Russian MPs, Aleksey Pushkov and Konstantin Kosachev, as well as a Kremlin advisor, Mikhail Fedotov, to a hearing on Tuesday.

Parliament president Martin Schulz and EU foreign service chief Federica Mogherini were due to take part.

But they quietly withdrew following a complaint by 17 other MEPs, mostly from eastern European countries.

“We are concerned that this conference serves as a pretext to press for ‘business as usual’ between [the] EU and Russia at a politically sensitive time,” the group-of-17 said in a letter to Schulz.

They noted Schulz had frozen Russia cooperation pending Minsk implementation and following a Russian visa ban on several MEPs.

They also complained the Socialists did not invite any delegates from Ukraine to give their point of view.

The pro-Russia initiatives come as Western leaders, from France, the UK, and the US, hold fresh talks with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Islamic State (IS) following the Paris attacks.

They also come amid a new flare-up in fghting in east Ukraine.

Russia-controlled forces killed six Ukrainian soldiers the same weekend that IS struck the French capital.

International monitors from the OSCE, on Wednesday, “recorded a significant increase in ceasefire violations,” citing “206 undetermined explosions and over 76 bursts of outgoing small-arms fire.”

EU leaders will, in mid-December, discuss whether to extend economic sanctions on Russia, which expire at the end of January.

EU-Russia relations will also be tested on 1 January, when an EU-Ukraine free trade treaty enters into force, with Russia threatening to impose a food export ban on Ukraine in return.

The Kremlin has, for the time being, rejected Juncker’s overture.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said on Thursday the commission chief’s “correlation with fulfilling the Minsk accords, especially in the current conditions when we see Kiev's unwillingness, once again, to honour these accords” makes his offer “hardly relevant or possible.”

The US, despite the post-Paris climate, also urged the EU to stick to its commitments.

Victoria Nuland, a senior US diplomat, told a security conference in Berlin on Wednesday: “Even as we focus on ISIL [another name for IS] … we must maintain pressure on Russia and its separatist proxies to complete the unfinished commitments of Minsk.”

“Sanctions are an essential tool for holding Russia accountable: They must be rolled over until Minsk is fully implemented.”

EU docks €32m in funding to UN Gaza agency pending audit

The European Commission will release €50m out of €82m in funds for the UN aid agency (UNRWA) operating in Gaza. The remaining €32m will come pending an audit. The commission has received no evidence to support Israeli allegations against UNRWA.

Column

Running away from the Ukraine war will only bring it closer

Karl Kraus, the prolific Austrian journalist and satirist, once wrote: "There is only one thing worse than the shame of war: the shame of people who no longer want to know about it." That would now seem to include Europe.

Opinion

I'll be honest — Moldova's judicial system isn't fit for EU

To state a plain truth: at present, Moldova does not have a justice system worthy of a EU member state; it is riven with corruption and lax and inconsistent standards, despite previous attempts at reform, writes Moldova's former justice minister.

Latest News

  1. Running away from the Ukraine war will only bring it closer
  2. EU agrees rules to ban products made with forced labour
  3. I'll be honest — Moldova's judicial system isn't fit for EU
  4. Rafah invasion — a red line for EU on Israel?
  5. EU must overhaul Africa trade offer to parry China, warns MEP
  6. EU watchdog faults European Commission over Libya
  7. Hungary's Ukrainian refugees in two minds as relations sour
  8. The six-hour U-turn that saw the EU vote for austerity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us