Russia can become a strategic partner to the EU only if it shares and upholds EU democratic principles and values, said MEPs in a resolution voted on Thursday. EU-Russia relations are still suffering from Russia's failure to embrace democratic values fully and strengthen the rule of law. Yet talks on a comprehensive new EU-Russia pact must continue, despite Russia's lack of enthusiasm for them, adds the text.
The new agreement, which is to replace one signed in 1994, must provide a comprehensive, forward-looking and legally-binding framework for the further development of relations with Russia, MEPs say. They stress that respect for democratic principles, human rights and rule of law must be an "absolute prerequisite" for signing the agreement, as must Russia's full compliance with its WTO obligations.
"Let's be pragmatic but very strict on human rights and WTO rules," said rapporteur Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT) in the debate preceding the vote. "The partnership can only be an honest one," he insisted.
Deteriorating rule of law, democracy and human rights
MEPs are concerned that the climate for the development of civil society in Russia is deteriorating. They call on Russia to put an end to the culture of impunity, endemic corruption, politically-motivated persecution, arrests and detentions. The Russian authorities should also refrain from using repressive measures against the political opposition, they add.
Modernisation must include politics
Fully-fledged political reform must accompany Russia's economic modernisation, MEPs say. Reform must focus on guaranteeing the rule of law and fighting corruption. The EU and Russia both stand to gain from Russia's political modernisation and economic restructuring, MEPs add.
The peoples of Russia and the EU must be joined in genuine partnership, the text says. It calls for rapid progress on a visa facilitation deal for academics, students, researchers, journalists, business people, civil society representatives and youth exchange schemes.
The resoluton was passed by 530 votes to 33, with 39 abstentions.