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27/07/2016

Parliament to condemn Russia’s ‘aggressive and expansionist policy’

Europe's East

Parliament to condemn Russia’s ‘aggressive and expansionist policy’

MEPs call “for the continuation of the current EU sanction regime in particular at the upcoming Council meeting in March 2015, as long as Russia does not fully respect and deliver in particular on its Minsk obligations”. [European Parliament]

The European Parliament will pass tomorrow (15 January) a resolution on Ukraine which strongly condemns Russia’s “aggressive and expansionist policy” and calls for the continuation or even strengthening of the current sanctions regime as long as Moscow does not deliver on the Minsk agreement.

The political groups agreed yesterday on a consolidated text of the Resolution, based on a draft by the centre-right European Peoples’ party (EPP). Even the Socialists and Democrats, who usually seek to soften the language on Russia, have largely backed the EPP draft.

Reportedly, the political group who left the biggest impact of the draft are the Greens, who insisted on language that makes clear that the EU doesn’t support Ukraine’s admission to NATO in the near future.

According to the agreed upon text, the European Parliament “strongly condemns Russia’s aggressive and expansionist policy”, which it says constitutes “a threat to the unity and independence of Ukraine and poses a potential threat to the European Union itself”. It condemns the “illegal annexation of Crimea and waging an undeclared hybrid war against Ukraine, including information war, blending elements of cyber warfare, use of regular and irregular forces, propaganda, economic pressure energy blackmail, diplomacy and political destabilisation”. The text also emphasises that “these actions are in breach of international law and constitute a serious challenge to the European security situation”.

Consequently, MEPs call “for the continuation of the current EU sanction regime in particular at the upcoming Council meeting in March 2015, as long as Russia does not fully respect and deliver in particular on its Minsk obligations”.

They urge the Commission “to find ways to enhance the solidarity among the member states in case the crisis with Russia goes on” and also stress the need “to adopt a clear set of benchmarks which, when achieved, could prevent imposing new restrictive measures against Russia or lead to lifting of the previous ones, including implementation of the ceasefire, unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine of all Russian troops and Russian-backed illegal armed groups and mercenaries, exchange of all prisoners including Nadia Savchenko [a former lieutenant of the Ukrainian army, captured by pro-Russian insurgents and charged with the murder of two Russian journalists] and restoration of Ukraine’s control over its whole territory, including Crimea”.

In the event of any further Russian actions destabilising Ukraine, MEPs invite the European Council “to take up further restrictive measures and broaden their scope, by covering the nuclear sector and by limiting the ability of Russian entities to conduct international financial transactions”.

MEPs also state that there are no legal restrictions for member states to provide defensive arms to Ukraine, and welcome the decision of the French government to halt the delivery of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers to Russia.

The European Parliament also calls on European Neighbourhood Commissioner Johannes Hahn “to  prepare  and  present  to  the  European  Parliament within two months a communication strategy to counter the Russian propaganda campaign directed  towards  the  EU,  its  Eastern  neighbours  and  Russia  itself,  as  well  as  to  develop instruments  that  would  allow  the  EU  and  its  Member  States  to  address  the  propaganda campaign at European and national level”.

MEPs also “welcome the stop of the South Stream project”, a Gazprom-favoured pipeline aimed at bringing Russian gas to Europe bypassing Ukraine.

Messages to Ukraine

Some of the messages in the resolution are addressed to Ukraine. In particular, MEPs state “that the government and the parliament of Ukraine need to ensure the protection of rights and needs of those citizens who have no representation in the decision-making of the state”.

MEPs also call on Ukraine to put in place “an ambitious anti-corruption programme, including a zero tolerance for corruption”. They call upon the Ukrainian leadership “to eradicate systematic  corruption by immediate  and  effective  implementation  of  the  National  Strategy against Corruption and stresses that the fight against this practice must become one of the top priorities of the new government”.

The European Parliament also takes the position that it is  “of  crucial  importance  to  impartially  and  effectively  investigate  all  major  moments  of violence,  including  those  of  Maidan,  Odesa,  Mariupol,  Slovansk,  Ilovaysk and  Rymarska”. In all those cases, responsibility for the violence and deaths has not been determined.

EU perspective

MEPs call for the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement by all member states before the May Eastern Partnership summit in Riga. So far, only 11 member countries have ratified the agreement, signed last June.

The European Parliament also reiterates its view, in this respect, that this agreement “does not constitute the final goal in EU-Ukraine  relations”, and that pursuant  to  Article  49  of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),  Ukraine, like  any  other  European  state,  has  a  European  perspective  and  may  apply  to  become  a member  of  the  European  Union  provided  it  adheres  to  the  Copenhagen  criteria  and  the principles of democracy, respects fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights, and ensures  the  rule  of  law.

The vote in plenary will take place tomorrow afternoon.

Further Reading