In the resolution adopted yesterday (12 September), MEPs called on the EU institutions to consider the recent pressure from Russia “beyond a purely trade dimension” and take action in defence of the EU's Eastern European partner countries.
A summit in Vilnius on 28-29 November is expected to see the signature of a landmark association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, and the start of similar agreements with Moldova and Georgia.
The resolution mentions Russia's import ban on the Moldovan wine industry, an additional hurdle blocking progress towards the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, as well as security-related threats with respect to Armenia.
The text says the moves were "aimed at forcing the Eastern partnership countries not to sign or initial the Association Agreements or DCFTAs but instead to join the Russian-led Customs Union, which Russia intends to transform into a Eurasian Union”.
As a result, those countries are put “in a precarious position as a result of geopolitical constraints to which they should not be subject".
Speaking in a plenary meeting, Polish MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, of the European People's Party (EPP), who is one of the main authors of the resolution, said that the Russian pressure was escalating into sanctions, as was the case with Moldova.
“Action is needed and we need to move beyond just descriptions and diagnosis. Who will defend our Eastern partner countries?" he said. Quoting former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, he asked: "If not we, then who? If not now, then when?”
“Russia is challenging the EU, not only the Eastern Partnership,” said Saryusz-Wolski, who is also an EPP vice president. “We have to admit that we are on a collision course with Russia. It is Russia who has taken a confrontational course. We need a contingency plan and swift action."
Saryusz-Wolski said five of the Parliament's political groups had agreed to seven forms of response:
- Put diplomatic pressure on Russia, by summoning the Russian ambassador and transmitting a formal protest note;
- Diplomatically support the EU’s Eastern partners in various ways, also in multilateral fora, including WTO;
- Exert diplomatic pressure on Russia, by putting Russian pressure on Eastern Partnership countries very high on the agenda of bilateral talks;
- Help the countries being pressured by Russia by delivering them energy, by opening the EU markets to their goods like wine, and by building interconnecting energy, gas and grid infrastructure;
- Retaliate via trade against Russia – if Russia puts an embargo on Moldovan wine, the EU could put an embargo on Russian spirits;
- The European Commission to stop refraining from submitting what he said was an already ready complaint against Gazprom's abuse of dominant position on EU gas market and its price manipulation to the detriment to EU consumers;
- File a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Russia.
“If we do not do this and loose at our doorstep, let’s stop talking about the EU as a global actor,” Saryusz-Wolski said.
MEP Evgeni Kirilov (Socialists & Democrats, Bulgaria), who is also the co-chairman of Euronest, the parliamentary assembly of the EU and the Eastern partnership countries, also criticised “the consecutive acts of applying unjustified trade measures and threats against the countries which also aim to deepen relations with the EU contradict the principles of this strategic partnership”.
“The EU offers partnership agreements which are consistent with their pursuit of good neighbourly relations with Russia,” Kirilov said.
The Euronest co-chair was also critical at the EU, who in his words has not been “active enough” in contributing to the settlement of frozen conflicts like Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria.
“This is now used for serious pressure on some of the Eastern Partnership countries. Looking critically, we should push from both sides. We should really help this process to reach a successful end in Vilnius,” Kirilov said.