Russia must respect the right of the EU's eastern neighbours to choose whether to enter into association agreements with the EU, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Thursday. For example, Russia must refrain from exerting pressure, such as its recent trade sanctions against Ukraine and Moldova and threats to Armenia, to dissuade them from signing or initialling deals with the EU at this November's Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, adds the text.
MEPs deplore the unacceptable pressure that Russia has been putting on EU Eastern Partnership countries as the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit approaches. They call on it to respect the independent states' sovereignty and not to intervene in their internal affairs, as required by international law. Eastern Partnership countries have a right to "build relations with partners of their choice", they add.
The resolution firmly rejects the idea that the EU's and Russia's relations with Eastern Partnership countries can be treated as a "zero-sum game". Instead of using the region's frozen conflicts in its geopolitical and economic interests, Russia should cooperate and contribute constructively to the region's economic and political stability, adds the text.
MEPs also encourage the Eastern partnership countries to pursue preparations for the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit and "not succumb to pressure" from Russia. They reaffirm their strongest support for initialling or signing the agreements at the Vilnius Summit with those Eastern Partnership countries "which are ready and willing to do so".
Need for EU action
The EU must take responsibility for defending the Eastern Partnership countries that have been exposed to Russia’s "open, alarming and escalating" pressures, say MEPs. They ask the European Commission and the Council to come forward with "concrete and effective measures" to support the partner countries in their European aspirations and choices.
Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova have the prospect of signing or initialling association or trade deals with the EU at the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit this November. However, Russia recently blocked imports from a major Ukrainian confectionary producer and banned wine and spirit imports from Moldova — trade sanctions which MEPs believe to be a "cover for blatant political pressure". Armenia recently announced that it will join the Russian Customs Union, which is incompatible with a free trade deal with the EU. MEPs believe this announcement is due to "security-related threats" by Russia.