Saturday

28th May 2022

UK to call out 'hostile' Russia at EU summit

British leader Theresa May aims to designate Russia as a "hostile state" and to pledge more than €110 million to fight Russian propaganda at an EU summit on Friday (24 November).

"We must be open-eyed to the actions of hostile states like Russia which … attempt to tear our collective strength apart," she plans to say, her office revealed on the eve of the event.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Poroshenko met EPP leaders on Thursday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

It said she will pledge £100 million (€112mn) over the next five years to "counter [Russian] disinformation" in the former Soviet region.

"This summit highlights the crucial importance of European countries working together to protect our shared values and ideals," she will say.

"The UK may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe, and we are unconditionally committed to maintaining Europe's security," she will also say.

May's approach to the EU summit with its eastern neighbours strikes a more hawkish tone than EU officials, who told press this week that Western overtures toward Moscow's former satellite states were meant to be "non-confrontational" and "not aimed against anybody".

The British approach also comes despite the Kremlin's warning that it would "harm relations" if the EU were to spend more on countering Russian propaganda.

The EU foreign service has a unit of 14 staff - Stratcom East - tasked with pushing back against Russian disinformation in eastern Europe.

There is some talk in Brussels of giving them more resources, such as their own budget to buy data analysis tools, but EU diplomats expect these talks to amount to little amid French, German, and Italian resistance.

Guest list

May will join about 20 EU leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, but not French president Emmanuel Macron, in the EU capital for the twice-yearly 'Eastern Partnership' summit.

The leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine and the foreign minister of Belarus will also attend.

When Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko met with top brass from the EU's centre-right political family, the EPP, on Thursday, the group issued a statement saying they all "strongly support our partners and their European aspirations and underline that a European perspective constitutes a driving force for reforms".

"It is a strong message … condemning Russian aggression, supporting Ukraine on the path of reforms, and the European aspirations of our country," Poroshenko said afterward.

He also thanked EU Council chief Donald Tusk for speaking out on Russia's oppression of the native Tatar population in Ukraine's Russia-occupied Crimea after house searches by Crimea's new authorities caused the death of an 82-year old Tatar woman, Vajie Kashka, earlier the same day.

The official Eastern Partnership summit declaration, details of which were still being ironed out on Friday morning, diplomats said, is likely to be less encouraging, however.

It will say nothing about a "European perspective" for Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, who want to join the EU.

It is also expected to underline that their EU association treaties will not lead to major financial assistance, the right to work in the EU, or security guarantees.

The summit takes place amid a backdrop of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

International monitors from the OSCE noted dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles on the move in Russia-occuppied east Ukraine in the run-up to the EU meeting.

They also reported that "at least 100" heavily armed men, including with "disposable anti-tank weapons, automatic grenade launchers" but with no insignia on their uniforms, had taken control of the city centre of Luhansk in recent days in what appeared to be Moscow's attempt to enforce order in the Russia-occupied zone.

The summit also takes place amid ongoing Russian media attacks.

Bogus Russian stories highlighted by Stratcom East in the days before the event included one that the EU had banned Georgian exports and that the US was paying Ukraine to keep the conflict in east Ukraine going in order to stop China from building roads and railways in the area to connect export routes to Europe.

Russia's "weaponisation of information … harms relations. For the EU to call this out is necessary and, apparently, working," Paul Reiderman, the EU Council's media chief, said earlier this week.

The EPP statement highlighted that "Ukraine has to enhance its fight against corruption" if it wants to see EU aid money keep flowing despite its Russia problem, however.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists, a Brussels-based NGO, also urged Poroshenko to bring to justice the killers of Pavel Sheremet, an investigative reporter.

EU values

There are few saints among the EU's guests on Friday.

But Poroshenko's sins against EU values are small compared to those of Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev, who has jailed dozens of political prisoners and whose petro-regime stands accused of corruption on an industrial scale.

A long list of international NGOs, including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders urged the EU to put pressure on Aliyev on Friday.

But the Western leaders showed little sign of doing that, with Nato head Jens Stoltenberg merely thanking him for his help on peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan at a meeting on Thursday.

Opinion

Mitigating the Russian challenge

It is crucial to keep cool when confronting Russian propaganda. The Kremlin's aim is to sow discord within Western politics, not necessarily to achieve a concrete electoral outcome.

Tusk: Poland risks harming EU appeal

EU Council president said anti-democratic 'interventions' in Poland and the US could harm Western soft power in its contest with Russia.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us