The EU´s duty is to shield its eastern neighbours from Russian pressure, said MEPs in a debate with the Commission on Monday, referring to Russia´s ´blackmail´ of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia ahead of the Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit. At the same time, MEPs said Russia could view the integration of its trading partners into the wider European economy as a deal where all parties benefit.

MEPs welcomed the Commission's proposal to liberalize the EU-Moldova wine trade by granting Moldova a special trade quota and compensating it for losses arising from the Russian ban on Moldovan wine imports. They welcomed plans to liberalization trade with Ukraine with immediate effect, as soon as the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is signed at the Vilnius summit.

MEPs said the forthcoming Vilnius summit would be a `historic turn` in the EU´s economic and political integration with its Eastern neighbours.

Some stressed that the EU must demonstrate more bravely to the Kremlin the leverage it has and come up with more specific measures to help Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, which are currently dependent on trade with Russia, when Russia ´slams the door in their face´. Others argued that the EU should not grant any preferences to the countries concerned until they showed signs of progress in fulfilling the requirements for political and economic reform.

The House will vote on a resolution on the European Neighbourhood Policy on Wednesday.

Watch the plenary debate via the link to the right.