MEPs have adopted a report on EU-Russia relations, including a clear call for sanctions to be maintained. The report says the EU must critically re-assess its relations with Russia, which “are profoundly damaged by Russia’s deliberate violation of democratic principles, fundamental values and international law with its violent action and destabilisation of its neighbours .”
The EU, added members, must now devise a soft-power contingency plan to counter Russia’s aggressive and divisive policies.
The resolution he steered through Parliament was passed on Wednesday by 494 votes to 135, with 69 abstentions.
After the vote the parliamentary rapporteur, Gabrielius Landsbergis (EPP, LT), said, “With its aggression against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the Russian leadership has put our relations at a crossroads. It is up to the Kremlin to decide now which way it will go – cooperation or deepening alienation.
“I am convinced that the Russian people, as all of us, want peace, not war. A change in Russia can, and will, come from within. Meanwhile we must send a strong message to the Russian leadership that we stand united with the victims of its aggression and those who stand for the values the EU is founded on,” he added.
Green foreign policy spokesperson Tamas Meszerics said, “The European Parliament has today clearly called for sanctions on Russia to be maintained until the Minsk agreement is respected. It is crucial that the EU is consistent on the question of sanctions; perpetual debates on whether or not to adapt the current sanctions will not lead to any progress in the current conflict. When Russia returns to international norms and respects international law, we can then renew efforts to strengthen our cooperation.”
Further comment came from Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms who said, “The EU sanctions aim to strengthen diplomacy and push for peace in eastern Ukraine. However, beyond sanctions, Europe must increase its independence from the Kremlin’s whims. The EU must prioritise its Energy Union and ensure domestic and home-grown solutions like energy efficiency and renewables are at its heart. This will strengthen European security.
“In order to credibly respond to Vladimir Putin, the EU and the European Parliament must act in unity. To this end, it is correct that no official European Parliament delegation travels to Russia under the current circumstances of the blacklist of EU politicians.”
The German deputy added, “That would mean that Putin himself can decide who is allowed to participate in dialogue from the European side, whom we meet and about what we talk. Clearly all MEPs remain open to engage in dialogue with citizens of Russia where this is possible.”
Meanwhile, Europe’s drive for energy security must include shale gas and nuclear power, MEPs were warned.
Overcoming over-reliance on Russian gas would need a far more radical approach than merely focusing on renewables and efficiency, said Conservative MEP Ashley Fox.
The Conservative Industry and Research spokesman told a debate in Strasbourg: “Russia is ruled by an unfriendly government which is only too happy to use the supply of energy as a political weapon. We saw this happen in both 2006 and 2009 when Mr Putin decided to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine. The continuing crisis in Ukraine has only exacerbated the danger of this happening again.”
He was speaking in the debate over a report on the European Energy Security Strategy for which he is the lead negotiator or shadow rapporteur for his group the European Conservatives and Reformists.
Fox said: “Although improving energy efficiency and our use of renewable energy are both important, they will not have much impact on the EU’s energy dependency on Russia.
“If we are to truly focus on energy security, we should be willing to use all of the tools available to us, including shale gas and nuclear energy. We should also encourage the development of new technologies, especially carbon capture and storage.Fox rejected calls in the report for binding climate and energy targets and proposals for interference in the energy mix of member states. That was a national competence and must remain so.”
He said he best way to ensure energy security for the whole of Europe was to have a properly interconnected single market with the ability to move gas and electricity around the continent to make another source available if one failed.
He questioned how differently the West might have approached the crisis in Ukraine had we been confident that we could have replaced Russian gas with imports from elsewhere.
“A properly functioning and free market in energy across the EU will reduce prices for consumers and businesses and is the best way to ensure energy security for all of us,” he concluded.
By Martin Banks