President. The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the EU/Russia Summit.
Günter Gloser, President-in-Office of the Council. (DE) Mr President, Mr Vice-President of the Commission, honourable Members, before turning to our actual theme, I should like to say something quite brief about the preceding debate. The Council Presidency, and hence too the European Union, responded to the conflict, not least because it touched upon the sovereignty of a Member State of the European Union, while also showing solidarity and – as Mrs Zimmer pointed out – helping to cool the situation down, and both these things were done in good time. We shall, of course, have to carry on doing these things.
Today, the ninth day of May, we celebrate Europe Day, a day symbolic of European integration. Ever since Robert Schuman proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, Europe has had a long and difficult road to cover – and I believe it has done so successfully – in order for the present European Union of 27 Member States to come into being, a European Union that has now achieved a level of stability and prosperity that is the envy of the world, and that historic achievement would not have been possible without a far-sighted view of policymaking and a patient approach to strategy.
Both of these are called for when it comes to developing relations between the European Union and Russia, which the European Union rightly sees as a partner and neighbour with which it is yoked through strategic cooperation. With scarcely any other country does the European Union maintain relations as wide-ranging and deep as with Russia. One of the fundamental lessons of European history is that Europe depends on Russia for long-term stability and prosperity; nor, indeed, in the final analysis, can we meet the great global challenges unless we do so together: challenges such as the war on international terrorism no less than the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or the dangers of global climate change. Close cooperation between the European Union and Russia is indispensable, too, if we want to prevail in conflicts such as those in Kosovo, with Iran or in the Middle East.
In an age of globalisation, both our common interests and the ways in which we are dependent on each other are far more important than that which divides us, in the sphere of energy, for example, where it is often forgotten that Russia is dependent on us, who consume 80% of its gas exports, and needs cooperation with the European Union if its economy is to get the modernisation it so urgently needs, and the European Union itself has a pre-eminent interest in fostering closer ties with Russia. Contrariwise, President Putin is right to constantly refer to the European Union as Russia’s ideal partner, and by ‘European Union’, he does of course mean all 27 Member States.
Since our cooperation with Russia is characterised by interconnection and founded upon the ‘four areas’ policy that we agreed on with it, the German Presidency of the EU wants to use the EU/Russia summit in Samara on 18 May to further cement and extend the partnership with Russia. In so doing, we do not want to limit ourselves to a mere exchange of views, but rather the intention is that this summit should send out positive signals in favour of our greater partnership and cooperation with Russia, and so that is what we are continuing to push for. We know that this summit represents the last opportunity to begin, as we must, negotiations on a successor to the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.
The German Presidency of the Council is still, to the utmost of its abilities, working together with the Commission to find a solution to the outstanding issue of the Russian ban on the import of Polish agricultural products. After the many discussions that have been held involving the Commission, Poland and Russia, the time has now come for Russia to name a day for the end of the import ban. The commencement of negotiations on a new and strategic agreement would be an important political signal to the effect that both sides were continuing to be committed to working on the further development of their partnership, and, at the end of the day, that must not be allowed to be frustrated by a technical issue.
Putting relations between the European Union and Russia on a new footing and defining new shared perspectives is in the interests of all of us; I am thinking here of such things as the development of an energy partnership between the EU and Russia on the basis of trustworthy rules and framework conditions. In Lahti, last October, President Putin gave an assurance that these principles would be incorporated into the new Treaty, and the EU/Russia summit presents us with a welcome early opportunity to talk with the Russian Government about how me might, in future, avoid points of friction in our dealings with them on energy and be able to prevent interruptions to the power supply, in which respect the establishment of an early-warning system would appear to be important.
It is because policies on energy and climate are closely interconnected that climate change and security are among the issues that should be discussed at the summit. As you will be aware, the European Union is prepared to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, provided that other industrialised states enter into comparable undertakings, and so winning Russia over to this cause would be a major triumph.
It has to be said, though, that partnership between the EU and Russia is about more than energy and economic matters. There is great potential for deeper relations between the EU and Russia in education, research and cultures, and that potential is far from having the fullest possible use made of it; it is in forward-looking fields such as these that both sides can benefit from becoming more enmeshed and interlinked, and it is because this represents a particular opportunity for the European Union to guide Russia’s transformation by helping it to adopt European values that we would like to use the summit to promote closer cooperation in these areas, through such things as more academic exchanges and cooperation in research.
Making Europe more secure calls for good and trusting cooperation between the EU and Russia. We are aware that talking to Russia about this issue has not always been a straightforward business in recent times, and we have noted with concern Russian utterances about a moratorium on the CSCE Treaty; like the discussion on the anti-missile system, this is where everything possible must be done to avoid a new spiral of mistrust, for it is only through mutual trust and practical cooperation that we will succeed in endowing Europe with long-term security.
We will, then, continue to try to persuade Russia to support a solution for the future status of Kosovo on the basis of the Ahtisaari plan; for it to do so would be a crucial contribution to European security, as also would be its constructive cooperation in dealing with what are termed the ‘frozen conflicts’ in Moldova and the Southern Caucasus.
Real partnership includes dialogue on contentious issues, and that is why I want to stress that one of the things we will be talking about in Samara will be Russia’s internal development, which, particularly recently, has been the subject of critical questioning and concern in the EU, especially where the condition of the media and of civil society has been concerned. The hard-hitting approach adopted by the Russian authorities to the demonstrations in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhni Novgorod is just one example of a trend that many see as problematic and cannot be accepted as it stands.
At the fifth human rights consultations between the EU and Russia, which took place on 3 May in Berlin, the European Union voiced its particular misgivings with specific reference to the right of free expression of opinion and assembly, particularly in view of the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia, and also expressed its unmistakable concern about the situation of Russian non-governmental organisations and civil society following the entry into force of the law on the activities of non-governmental organisation and the law on extremism. The issues raised did of course include reference to specific cases of human rights violations and the situation in Chechnya, as well as the combating of torture and mistreatment. Here too, it is also the case that we are not being critical for the sake of it, but because we care deeply about the way things are going in Russia and want the country to flourish.
The EU has a pre-eminent interest in a stable and strong Russia that is guided in the way it develops by European values without denying its own traditions, which involves a flourishing relationship with its own neighbours, one characterised by frank dialogue and good cooperation rather than by pressure, and it is with that in mind that our Presidency of the Council has been working for successful de-escalation that will benefit not only us but also our Russian partners. It was our mediation that put an end to the intolerable state of affairs surrounding the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, and we will maintain this dialogue with Russia – a dialogue that does not always run smoothly where its Baltic neighbours are concerned.
Ultimately, Russia will be successfully modernised only if those values and principles associated with democracy and the rule of law are entrenched – those values and principles to which both the EU and Russia have committed themselves in the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Since it has been Europe’s experience that good governance is conditional upon the rule of law and the presence of a critical and living civil society, the future development of Europe as a whole depends to a crucial degree on the successful development of an all-embracing strategic partnership between the EU and Russia.
This is an historic project, and one that will call for strategic patience and realism on both sides, and this realism will involve gaining an insight into what is feasible and working at chalking up triumphs step by step, which – in this area as in many others – will not be without its problems, yet neither the European Union nor Russia have any realistic alternative to going down this road of cooperation and partnership, and so it is a matter of our shared responsibility as Europeans that we should do just that.
Günter Verheugen, Vice-President of the Commission. (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, honourable Members, in view of the somewhat unsatisfactory state of relations between Russia and the European Union, the Commission thinks it necessary that a number of remarks be made in this debate about principles.
Firstly, Russia is our number one strategic partner in Europe. Secondly, we have every interest in Russia being a stable and reliable partner to us, just as we also want to be that sort of partner to it. Thirdly, we are persuaded that our partnership can grow best if it is supported by both sides in an unambiguous commitment to democracy, the rule of law and human rights and the constant effort to make them a reality. Fourthly, our dealings with our neighbours and with other peoples outside Europe are not value-free; on the contrary, they are founded upon the values on which we have agreed and which we have systematised; that is why Europe has become a continent of hope for so many outside our own borders, and we want to keep it that way.
The summit is being held at a crucial juncture, when Moscow, with its mind on the imminent elections to the State Duma and to the Presidency, is concentrating on the smooth handing over of power, and that is why relations with the West in general and the EU in particular have got stuck in a difficult rut.
We take quite different lines on many items on the current agenda – the future of Kosovo, the anti-missile shield and Europe’s conventional armed forces for example – and all of these issues are, at the moment, close to the top of the agenda, together, of course, as so often, with the security of energy supply to all Member States of the European Union.
A situation such as this demands that we should not lose sight of the European Union’s longer-term interests in its relations with Russia, for not only are we neighbours with a long shared history behind us, but we are also dependent on one another in many respects, in that we are by far and away Russia’s biggest export market, while it is our principal supplier of energy; no major foreign policy issue in Europe can be resolved without our common consent, and for that we need constant and constructive dialogue within which we can make a determined case for our own interests and values, while at the same time having to work towards consensus.
At the summit, we will continue to strive to get negotiations started on a new agreement between the EU and Russia as a replacement for the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that is currently in place. Both parties should have a strong common interest in such an agreement, which can and should lift our relationship to a new and higher level, making it possible for them to develop fully.
The Commission has worked very hard at getting the Russians to lift their ban on the import of Polish meat and vegetable products, and I would like to say, further to that, that the Commission takes the view that the Russian import ban is disproportionate and unjustified, so what we now expect of Russia is an unambiguous and constructive signal in the shape of a clear timescale for the complete cessation of these measures, even though this may well have to involve several steps.
The summit will not draw a line under this, but forms part of a long development, and we will continue to work towards the progress in the establishment of the common areas on which we agreed so many years ago. The summit will also be an occasion on which we will have to express our concern as to the state of human rights and the rule of law in Russia. A great deal was said, at last week’s human rights consultations between the EU and Russia, about the restrictions placed on the freedom of the media and the attacks on journalists, the hampering of non-governmental organisation and opposition politicians and the situation in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus; it is particularly significant that Russia is inviting OSCE observers to the elections.
Free expression of opinion, freedom of association and of assembly are cornerstones of democracy, by which I mean democracy without further qualifying attributes, and we expect Russia, as a member of the family of democratic nations, to guarantee them.
I would like, at this point, to say something about the debate that you have just had in this House on crisis in relations between Russia and Estonia; since many speakers described what had happened, I do not need to repeat it, but Estonia, in any conflict or dispute with Russia, can rely on the solidarity of its partners in the European Union and on that of the EU’s institutions, which, I do believe, has been demonstrated. This solidarity needs to be maintained in the event of any further interference in Estonia’s internal affairs, whether through cyber-attacks or calls by delegations from the Duma for the resignation of the Estonian prime minister.
Never again will we allow anyone to attempt to drive a wedge between the European Union and one of its Member States. What is evident from this crisis is the way in which the wars of Europe’s past continue to cast their shadows over us, with all Europe’s peoples having their own experience of history and their own ways of getting to grips with them, and one can always only hope that they do this with respect for the experiences of others, because, where views diverge, the only thing that actually helps is talking – nothing else works.
The summit offers an opportunity to inject new life into the process of Russia’s accession to the WTO, an objective that is certainly in the interests of both sides, and of which the EU is a leading advocate. As regards energy, it will see us striving to achieve agreement on the establishment of an early-warning and consultation mechanism that will ensure that information on the risk of potential interruptions to energy supplies will be exchanged early enough to avoid a supply crisis, with the transit countries being involved in this wherever necessary.
The summit should also see agreement being reached on the prioritisation of action to deal with climate change; it is important that Russia should approve and set in motion joint implementation projects with investors from the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol, and we also want to pave the way for our cooperation at the Bali conference in December in getting international negotiations started on a comprehensive climate agreement for the post-2012 era. It is in our common interest that countries that produce a great deal of pollution – the USA, China and India, for example – should be involved in this important negotiating process so that the global challenge can be faced.
Russia is an important partner when it comes to the resolution of problematic foreign policy issues, and it is likely that discussion of international issues at the summit will focus on the subjects of Kosovo, Iran and the Middle East, long-term solutions to which are dependent on both sides making constructive contributions in the relevant multilateral fora.
In our dealings with Russia as a neighbour, we want to make it plain that the Republic of Moldova and Georgia are neighbours to the European Union, and our interest in finding solutions to these conflicts – which are described as ‘frozen’ – is greater than ever; this will require cooperation by Russia, the EU, and many of the latter’s Member States within international frameworks, and it is our especial hope that progress will be made concerning Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh.
I would like to stress once more that the Commission remains committed to a policy of constructive cooperation with Russia as a strategic partner and neighbour, a policy that must be founded on common interests and values. We believe that it is in Russia’s own rational interests to cooperate constructively on this basis not only with the European Union but also with its Member States.
Joseph Daul, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Mr Gloser, Mr Verheugen, ladies and gentlemen, can we at once be firm where our values and principles are concerned and work closely on matters as crucial as energy, climate change, accession to the WTO, visa policy and cooperation in our shared neighbourhood? The answer to that question should not vary according to the partner about whom we are talking when we talk about the European Union’s relations with it. Yes, in its relations with Russia, Europe must adopt an open, dialogue-focused attitude, but it must also share its concerns – serious as they often are – on the subject of human rights and, in particular, on the subject of freedom of expression and of the treatment of minorities.
Today, 9 May, we are commemorating the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration. What significance do these celebrations have if Europe, in its reunified form, is unable to uphold its humanist rights? In our relations with such a strategic partner as Russia, the latest developments in that country are a source of grave concern. Thus, my group feels that Moscow’s attitude after the movement, by the Estonian authorities, of a Soviet monument, is totally unacceptable. This act, on the part of Russia, is a genuine infringement of the sovereignty of an EU Member State, which requires us to react very seriously. That is what we have done today. Russia must not think that, by adopting such an attitude, it will succeed in dividing us: today, we are all Estonians.
Furthermore, my group has unreservedly condemned the clampdowns on demonstrations in Moscow. It denounced the assassination, at the end of 2006, of the journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the repeated attacks on freedom of expression and also on freedom of the press. Finally, serious violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic, assassinations, forced disappearances, torture, hostage-taking and arbitrary detentions remain realities that the European Union must not accept.
Ladies and gentlemen, on all of these subjects, the European Union has a duty to speak frankly and to obtain clarifications and, above all, a change in attitudes and policies. Our mutual duty is to create the conditions for balanced relations and to work towards establishing a stable geopolitical environment that is as harmonious as possible. The world has changed. We are no longer in an era of cold war, but of cooperation, of the creation of practical policies. These policies can only be beneficial for growth, jobs and the long-term stability of our continent.
I call on the Commission and the Council to develop joint initiatives with Russia in an effort to step up security in the neighbourhood: co-management of the crises in Ukraine and Belarus and joint efforts to resolve the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Moldova and Georgia, while guaranteeing the absolute territorial integrity of the States. I should also like the negotiations to be re-opened as soon as possible on a new EU-Russia framework agreement, insofar as Russia agrees to behave like a genuine partner. I congratulate the German Presidency on the intensive efforts that it is making to that end and I call on our Russian partners to stop putting economic pressure on our Member States.
I should like to stress the importance of Russia’s acceding to the WTO in the near future. This accession will send out an important sign of confidence to investors, it will stimulate growth in Russia and also strengthen our trade, and it will force Russia to comply with the rules. However, the Union will only be able to support this development if it sees more of an improvement being made and calm in the relations. Let us not miss this opportunity!
I should also like to stress that the strategic issue of energy talks with Russia is very important. I should like to congratulate Commissioner Piebalgs and the Russian energy minister on the agreement that was reached recently on the re-organisation of these talks. It is our duty, and it is in our common interests, to guarantee the security of supply and of the demand for energy in a context of increased interdependence. This cooperation – we emphasise this point – must be based on the principles laid down in the Energy Charter and, in particular, in the protocol on transit annexed to it.
It is by taking such practical action to help the peoples of Russia and Europe that we will overcome our differences. It is by means of true dialogue that we are going to rise to the challenges of globalisation, the key aspects of which will emerge strengthened. I hope that we are going to strengthen them on a mutual basis.
Jan Marinus Wiersma, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (NL) Mr President, is it not, in some way, symbolic that 9 May should be the day on which we debate the relationship between the European Union and Russia? It is a day of historic reflection and, in the European Union, the day on which we celebrate Europe Day. This year, we can more specifically look back on 50 years of European cooperation, and 9 May is the day on which Russia celebrates the end of the Second World War– a war that divided Europe, but was also the motive for European unification. In actual fact, 9 May should be a day on which we reflect on the common experiences that unite us and that, moreover, can also be used as a basis for a common future.
The situation is not as bright, unfortunately. If we look ahead to the half-yearly EU-Russia Summit that is to take place in Samara next Friday, we have to conclude that the prospects for a constructive dialogue – which we all want – are not good. There is, of course, enough to talk about, and we are still persuaded – something that has been underlined by the previous speakers – that close cooperation between the European Union and Russia really is the only viable option for the future, given the shared interests on both sides of our continent.
There are also areas in which we joined forces in recent years and which we would like make a point of mentioning, for example, the importance of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions and how to counter these, or cooperation surrounding the Kyoto Protocol.
Turning to the business and economic relations between Russia and the European Union, I often get the feedback that these are developing according to plan. How we further develop our partner relationship, however, remains to some extent uncertain.
There are important areas in which we have not yet managed to make any progress. How, for example, can we guarantee the clear and transparent energy relations that we seek? How do our common values of democracy and respecting human rights fit into the strategic EU-Russia partnership? These are of fundamental importance to us and my group, and cannot be the subject of concession in the dialogue. It is, as I see it, up to the European Union to make clear in Samara where we stand, particularly also in the run-up to fresh negotiations about a future partnership agreement. We, like others, are concerned that this summit will produce less than what we would have expected a while back.
I could list a ream of other things that have also been included in the joint resolution. Something which, not least on behalf of my group, I should like to stress is that the increasing polarisation in the run-up to the Duma elections later this year fills us with fear and concern. It is of key importance for the European Union to stress that we want the elections to be held in a free and democratic context and that it is unacceptable for the opposition parties to be thwarted in the way this is currently being done.
I do not wish to repeat what has been said on the Estonia issue, and, in actual fact, I endorse everything that the previous speakers have said about it. Let us hope that Russia’s attitude and behaviour in this matter is not symptomatic, and we must hammer home the fact that a repeat occurrence would be unacceptable to us.
Until 1991, Samara was a closed city, because part of it was located in a strategic zone of the Soviet Union. We hope that this is not indicative of what we can expect from next week’s meeting. I think that both partners would benefit from reconsidering our common interest, not least with the EU in mind, without overlooking the values on which our partnership must be based, namely democracy, human rights and respect for other countries.
Graham Watson, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, on this day in 1945 Europe fêted Russia’s День Победы – their Day of Victory – and the victory of freedom, law and human dignity over the forces of Nazi hate. Then, we stood together in common cause. Now, a symbol of that same war that brought us together has locked us in a destabilising dispute.
I know the Commission advises dialogue to end the stand-off between Tallinn and Moscow over the Russian War Statue. However, ‘a dialogue is more than two monologues’, as the former US Ambassador to the CSCE, Max Kampelman, once said.
When intimidation triumphs over negotiation, it can no longer be business as usual between the European Union and Russia. That is why my group decided this morning to withdraw its support for the motion for a resolution on the EU-Russia summit. The problem is not what it says, but what it does not say. The Russians need a clear signal that enough is enough.
(DE) Mr Gloser, Commissioner Verheugen, what you have given us are fine words, no more than soft words, but no action.
So let me make you a direct proposal: postpone the summit until Russia is prepared to cement a constructive relationship with the Union and condemn all violence against EU staff and property.
We must stand together with Estonia. We must stand together with Poland. Democratic solidarity is more important than bilateral oil and gas deals.
And we must not blink first if we are serious about maintaining pragmatic cooperation with Putin’s government and garnering consensus on Kosovo’s final status.
Of particular concern to Liberals and Democrats is Russia’s record on Human Rights. Only when an independent judiciary and freedom of expression and democracy cease to exist solely as sound-bites, and when journalists, opposition parties, and NGOs are able to operate without fear of retribution, will Russia have proved its commitment to establishing a common space of freedom, security and justice, as implied in its membership of the Council of Europe and as it signed up to at the St Petersburg Summit.
The arrest and detention of opposition voices, whether Kasparov or Khodorkovsky, has done nothing to indicate that times are changing. December’s elections to the Duma, not to mention next year’s presidential elections, will be a litmus test in this regard, as will Russia’s actions in Chechnya, where torture and secret detention continue to give cause for concern.
Dialogue requires progress on energy security, where, with Gazprom more about politics than profit, the prospect of further strong-arm tactics lingers. We owe it to Member States like Latvia and Lithuania, which have fallen victim to energy politics, to deliver a response that has more bite than bark. That means insisting that future agreements between the European Union and Russia be linked to the principles of the Energy Charter Treaty and the Kyoto Agreement to ensure a more secure and sustainable future.
Yes, there are some signs of progress in justice and home affairs, where we are negotiating border agreements with the Baltic States, visa-free travel and the readmission of illegal migrants in line with our joint strategy.
However, the fruits of constructive dialogue are too few and far between. Today’s ‘Victory Day’ should remind us that, only 60 years ago, interdependence helped us face down common challenges. It can do so again, provided we have the courage to act!
Hanna Foltyn-Kubicka, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, as a sovereign state, Estonia is fully entitled to decide how to view its own history by itself. It is also entitled to move the monument and ashes of Soviet soldiers to a cemetery – where they rightly belong – while showing all the necessary respect for the dead. Russia’s hysterical reaction to the sovereign decision of the Estonian Government is a carefully thought-out ploy. On the one hand, the Kremlin wants to see how far it can go in putting pressure on Europe, while on the other hand provoking conflicts such as the ones with Poland, Georgia or Ukraine. The aim is to create the impression of a fortress under siege, and therefore to rally Russians around Putin. The coming summit in Samara will therefore be a test to see how unified Europe is. I have said this from this platform many times before, and I repeat: the European Union must be united, it must speak in one voice, it must stand up for its members at all costs, and it must meet whatever challenges Putin places before it.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, while I do think Mr Daul was trying to do the right thing, it has to be said that he did, quite simply, miss the mark. The question is how one is to maintain a relationship with a political power such as Russia, which, in essence, understands all relationships as no more than means to an end. Russia may no longer be the Soviet Union, but it does, in many areas, want to have the same policies as did the Soviet Union; it wants to play power politics – not, however, the politics of military power, but of economic power, and one of the means it uses to do this is energy supplies.
That does not mean that we should not enter into political relationships with Russia; what it does mean, and nothing else, is that we should not take things as being other than they actually are. Political relations with Russia through the Commission and the Council are not a dialogue. Dialogue is what happens when people can talk to one another, when they can travel, when there is interchange between civil societies. Political structures do not engage in dialogue; they conduct political negotiations, and the two must not be confused. Mr Watson, I think, chose to adopt the right approach. Is there any chance of us in the European Union, given Russia’s present power politics, which is motivated only by Russia’s interests – by which I do not mean the interests of the country itself, but those of the power structure, of the Putin system, and of the economic system – being able to send out some signal that that is not the sort of politics that we want?
That is difficult. I do not claim to have any solutions to hand, but what is clear is that, if a former German Chancellor can assert that Russia is a democracy without spot or blemish, that exemplifies the feeble-mindedness that is weakening our policy so much, for we are not in a position to see what sort of system is in control in Russia. We have to have political relations with Russia or with Saudi Arabia. No politician with any sanity would claim that Saudi Arabia was a faultless democracy in which you could end up having only one hand chopped off if you had transgressed in some way, in contrast to having two hands chopped off in other fundamentalist Islamic states.
What that means is that we will be able to achieve a proper relationship with Russia only as and when we, here in this House, have managed to gain a proper appreciation of Russia, of its power politics and of Putin’s authoritarian policies. Only then will we be able to do the right thing, and that does not mean that we should not negotiate; what it does mean is that we and the Russians are not on friendly terms.
I do not want political friendship with an authoritarian and dictatorial leadership such as Putin’s. We can and must maintain political relations with Russia, but the relationship cannot be one of friendship, with us saying, ‘OK, Putin, you can carry on doing the same things to your people.’ That is where we have to say ‘no!’
Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FI) Mr President, in a way this is a question of trying to square the circle, since some EU Member States want to maintain both good and bad relations with Russia at the same time. Good relations are needed for cheap gas and oil, bad for domestic policy.
Our group wants the EU to negotiate a new partnership agreement with Russia. As there are 27 Member States they will have different interests to look out for in the talks. It is difficult, however, to understand the kind of nationalism which prevents our Community of half a billion people from managing relations with the EU’s next-door neighbour in some organised way.
Certain Member States should not throw a tantrum at Russia, trusting in the solidarity of other Member States, if at the same time they prevent other countries from promoting common interests in relation to Russia. Europe must not become polarised, though that is a mood which is perceivable in this House. For our group the joint resolution is acceptable.
Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, I should like to address the Commission’s recent initiative for a Black Sea Plan which plays an extremely important role in relations with Russia; at the heart of which are hard and soft security risks, in that the Commission’s initiative for a Black Sea Synergy deals with the frozen conflicts in Transnistria, South-Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh, as well as such topics as arms and drugs smuggling, human trafficking and migration, all of which are important. That means that this initiative on the part of the Commission and Council, which will be the subject of further discussion under the German Presidency, is a good one.
The Commission’s initiative, however, could also be seen in the light of European attempts to diversify energy supplies and pipelines. It is reported that the Russian Government is less than enthusiastic about the present Black Sea Plan put forward by the Commission. Incidentally, the German Presidency’s document shows – the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung carried an interesting article about this very subject – that Moscow’s cooperation is indispensable if Europe’s plans are to succeed. In short, Moscow is less than enthusiastic but its cooperation is indispensable. How do the Council and Commission intend to address this geopolitical dilemma in Samara?
Jean-Marie Le Pen, on behalf of the ITS Group. – (FR) Mr President, it goes without saying that Estonia’s rights must be respected. Having said that, the harshest critics of today’s Russia are often those who were the most obliging towards the Soviet Union.
For decades, they have denied, on the one hand, the danger that Soviet imperialism represented for peace and for the independence of our nations and, on the other, the totalitarian nature of communism. The communists, of course, but also many Western European leaders, hailed as a benefactor of humanity the founder of that horrendous system: Lenin. Mr Giscard d’Estaing and Mr Chirac went so far as to lay flowers in front of his mausoleum. In contrast, the anti-communists who showed their solidarity with the peoples of Europe and the East were demonised. This obligingness, I am sorry to say, did not disappear with the USSR. A large number of our fellow Members, such as Mr Cohn-Bendit, would therefore like to ban the people of Poland from ‘de-Communising’ their country.
Today, Russia is a free nation and no less democratic than the Europe of Brussels, which is seeking to impose a constitutional text that was rejected in 2005 by the Netherlands and France, by the electorate. On the other hand, unlike the people of Turkey whom the same Europe of Brussels wants to integrate into the Union, Russians are a great European nation that is exposed to the threats hanging over all the nations of Europe: immigration and falling birth rates, Islamism and globalisation. We can rise to these challenges, provided that we create a different Europe, the great Europe of the nations, founded on the principle of national sovereignty, extending from Brest to Vladivostok.
Almost 18 years ago, the destruction of the Iron Curtain represented the first stage in the reunification of our continent. Another gap must be filled: that which, for more than a thousand years, on both sides of the line of Theodosius, has separated the heirs of Saint Benedict in the West from those of Saint Cyril in the East.
Gunnar Hökmark (PPE-DE). – Mr President, there is no better way to celebrate 9 May than to make it very clear that the European Union stands up for each one of its members when they are threatened and harassed.
This must be a leading theme when we are discussing the upcoming Summit. There is no other way, because Estonia was one of the leading countries in the transformation of the old Europe into the new, peaceful, democratic Europe. We all owe them gratitude for that. But it is not only that, because their freedom and independence is today an indivisible part of our freedom and independence. Without their independence, we have no independence. That must also be a leading theme when we discuss European-Russian relations.
The upcoming Summit is important, but there are four things that the European Union must secure. The first is an understanding that if you do not respect Estonia, you do not respect the European Union, and that erodes all sorts of agreements that we can achieve. There must be a mutual understanding in all sorts of discussions. Otherwise, the goals we can achieve will not be worth the paper they are written on.
Secondly, you cannot threaten and harass one of the Member States and at the same time develop relations with others. You cannot reach agreements on energy, trade and other areas if they do not relate to all the Member States with equal rights and equal opportunities. We must ensure that Russia has no belief at all, and no room for believing, that it can divide us in this sense by providing energy to one country while harassing another.
Thirdly, the discussion about Russia and Estonia is not about Estonia. It is about the political developments in Russia. We need to secure progress in Russia in order to secure progress in the relations between the European Union and Russia. If we do not defend our independence, we will all lose a part of it.
Reino Paasilinna (PSE). – (FI) Mr President, I understand that the Estonia debate is to take place in the next part-session in Strasbourg. I would therefore like to focus on the economic issues on the agenda at Samara.
Firstly, Russia’s objective is to go from being a seller of raw materials to a buyer of processed products. First of all, modernisation of the energy sector needs to be invested in, and Russia cannot do that alone: it needs our help. Secondly, the export industry needs promoting to international level, and, again, it will need our help for that too. Furthermore, the infrastructure has to be modernised, which is also an area in which we are the natural partners.
These are Russia’s objectives, then, but it will not achieve them quickly enough without the European Union: it will, instead, lag behind even further in international development. Moreover, we want Russia to embrace our common values, the rule of law and democracy. That is what we are asking for, and Russia needs a wealthy buyer, which is us. We need energy. Mutual dependence has grown, not diminished.
I do not believe that Russia’s modernisation will succeed without civil society and evolving democracy. Why would it not? Because modern technology and a society driven by information technology require a good deal of creativity, and creativity does not work well if the political climate is problematic or under a dictatorship.
Creativity, democracy and a free media are vital for the development of a modern society, which is precisely what Russia wants. I therefore suggest that this set of objectives should be made very clear in our relations and at Samara too, where Commissioner Verheugen is travelling to, hopefully with the message that the development which Russia wants to see is consistent with our objectives and that it is vital for that development to succeed.
Toomas Savi (ALDE). – (ET) I should like to draw your attention to Russia’s behaviour towards the European Union in recent years. What took place in Estonia, that is to say the moving of the Bronze Soldier and the exhumation and reburial of the remains of 12 fallen soldiers, was in keeping with the Geneva Conventions and was an internal matter for Estonia.
The Russian Federation has responded to this with a propaganda war using cyber attacks and trade restrictions. Statements by Russian politicians have provoked violence both in Tallinn and near the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, culminating in the physical assault on our ambassador.
The demand made by the delegation from the Russian Duma that visited Estonia, namely that the Estonian Government should resign, is particularly worrying. Such behaviour is yet another sign of Russia’s Europhobic foreign policy, expressed in President Putin’s view that the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 20th century was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe.
In his Munich speech, Putin referred to Russia’s attempts, notwithstanding the European Union, to establish itself as a superpower, especially in the context of relations with the new Member States.
Mr President, if an EU–Russia summit is indeed held in Samara on 18 May, the European Union must represent the interests of all of its Member States there, that is to say speak with one voice.
Inese Vaidere (UEN). – (LV) Ladies and gentlemen, sixty-two years ago at this time Europe was rejoicing, freed from Nazi occupation, but for the three Baltic States at the same time a further 50-year period of Soviet occupation began, and its effects are still being felt today.
In Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union’s rights and duties, democracy is now being constantly squeezed out. Violations of civil rights and the suppression of freedom of speech are becoming an everyday occurrence. Russia’s domestic policy is becoming ever more aggressive. The same is happening with Russian foreign policy, especially with regard to those states that it has long wished to consider as parts of its empire. Confirmation of this comes from the visit by a delegation from the Russian Duma to Estonia, demanding the resignation of Estonia’s government, and by the Russian security forces, with whose blessing the Estonian embassy was surrounded and attacked. It is a fact that in Estonia there are people involved in the activities and actions of the so-called Pan-European Russian party who are active opponents of the independence of the Baltic States. These are chauvinists who refer to themselves as minorities and anti-Fascists, thus devaluing this word. This fact arouses suspicion concerning this party’s real goals and its role in stirring up disorder.
The Russian-inspired situation in Estonia is a test: can the European Union protect its Member State? If the European institutions, the EU Presidency and Member State governments do not react quickly and decisively enough, and that includes reminding Russia of the need to acknowledge the facts of the occupation of the Baltic States, and if they are not able to speak with one voice, we can expect a repetition of events of this kind in other states too. Thank you.
Bart Staes (Verts/ALE). – (NL) Mr President, as a Member and former chairman of the Delegation for relations with Russia, I bemoan the weak, lacklustre and at times spineless attitude which the European Union has displayed towards Russian leaders. Although we are in favour of human or international rights, more freedom of press, the freedom of association and assembly, we very often look the other way, or we baulk at tough measures. How mild is the Council’s and Commission’s criticism of violence against the Another Russia protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Whether this is set to change during this summit is a matter of doubt.
Take Chechnya, for example. The precarious situation in that region is obviously a topic of discussion in the resolution on which we will be voting tomorrow, but we fail to plead in favour of, and commit to, a real peace process and a serious dialogue with all elements in Chechen society, including therefore the so-called rebels.
Under no circumstances can the mob that surround a criminal and corrupt figurehead such as Kadirov be recognised as legal representatives of the Chechen people. One of the tasks of the President-in-Office of the Council and Commissioner during the summit in Samara is to raise issues of this kind.
IN THE CHAIR: MR DOS SANTOS Vice-President
Vladimír Remek (GUE/NGL). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, there is surely no dispute that relations between the EU and Russia should move forward to the benefit of both sides. It would thus be good to cultivate these relations further, on the basis of carefully considered steps taken without emotion and without recklessness.
If we react hastily to any message from Russia aimed principally at the national political scene, we will be showing neither common sense nor strength, but rather our own insecurity and weakness.
Negotiating with a partner means not only sitting at the negotiating table, but also holding meaningful dialogue. Such negotiations are hardly made easier by demands being made on the other partner before attempts are made to resolve genuine problems sensibly.
For example, in the case of resolving – or rather not resolving – the issue of what are referred to as non-citizens in some EU Member States, we do not adopt such an uncompromising approach as we do when we put pressure on Russia. I feel that we should finally build relations with Russia on firm foundations, without prejudice and unburdened by the past.
Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM). – (EL) Mr President, I have listened to all the speakers very carefully. What is happening in Estonia is indeed wrong and good for us that we are defending Estonia.
Why do we not demonstrate the same sensitivity about what is happening in Cyprus? There too an autocratic state staged an invasion and no one says a word. A few days ago, the socialists even called for the status of the invaders to be upgraded. The same thing is happening with China and Taiwan. Taiwan cannot join the World Health Organisation and get the medicines it needs. There again we did not react. The United States of America did the same thing when it went into Iraq without asking us and then faced us with the serious dilemma of ‘whoever is not with us is against us’. Again we said nothing to this fascist approach on the part of President Bush and when some of the leaders of Europe distanced themselves from the invasion, I would remind you of the response they got once Mr Bush had exerted his influence. Perhaps I should remind you of President Chirac or talk about the German Chancellor? Why do we take such a one-sided view of things?
How will Russia be satisfied, when we allow American rockets to be located on its borders? Will they not be suspicious? As we say in Greece, get on well with your neighbour so that he will get on well with you. Are we doing the right thing or are we – for the moment at least – simply catering to America’s desires? America wants Russia to be its enemy and wants to force us to be its enemy. No, we must enter into dialogue, respect the state, respect the government, respect the people of that country. I think that everything else diverges from democracy.
Dumitru Gheorghe Mircea Coşea (ITS). – Fără îndoială, relaţia cu Federaţia Rusă nu poate să nu aibă în vedere faptul că 60% din exporturile ruse de petrol şi 50% din exporturile ruse de gaze ajung în Uniunea Europeană. În pofida acestei situaţii, ţin să subliniez necesitatea eliminării din politica Uniunii şi mai ales din politica unor state membre a concepţiei conform căreia Europa este condamnată să fie dependentă de Rusia şi obligată, ca, în schimbul aprovizionării cu energie, să accepte unele compromisuri sau cedări în faţa unor tendinţe hegemonice ale Rusiei, în exterior, sau a încălcării unor drepturi democratice în interior.
Am convingerea că Uniunea Europeană are capacitatea tehnică şi de inovaţie pentru a micşora din ce în ce mai mult nivelul aprovizionării din Rusia. De aceea, relaţia de energie nu trebuie să depăşească limitele cadrului relaţiilor comerciale şi de cooperare tehnică În niciun caz ea nu trebuie să fie privită ca un argument politic în acceptarea de către Uniune a încălcării de către Rusia a unor principii şi valori europene dedicate libertăţii, democraţiei şi toleranţei.
În relaţia cu Rusia, nu trebuie uitat că Europa nu are petrol, dar are principii iar principiile nu se schimbă niciodată pe petrol.
Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). – Mr President, EU-Russia relations ahead of the forthcoming summit are at a critical juncture: we are facing a serious crisis over the relocation of the Soviet Memorial Statue in Tallinn.
Coming from the UK, a country that has mercifully never had to face Soviet hegemony directly, it is easy for me to question the wisdom of the political decision to relocate the statue, and with it the fallen Russian soldiers, to a military cemetery. Nevertheless, it is clearly a sovereign right of the Estonian Government and was conducted lawfully under international law. It is neither acceptable for Russia to call for the resignation of the Estonian Government nor for it to foment unrest – through the extremist nationalist grouping Nashi – against the Estonian mission in Moscow. I personally protested to the Deputy Foreign Minister when I was in Moscow a few weeks ago about the same treatment meted out to the British Ambassador, Anthony Brenton, who was harassed for attending the Kasparov rally.
Russia must now wake up to the new geopolitical reality that the so-called ‘near abroad’, where it calls the shots, no longer exists. It must now respect the sovereignty of these new countries, like Estonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, etc.
I consider myself a friend of Russia and, particularly, its very rich culture, and believe the EU needs a strong, united Russia, as it needs us, but also a Russia that upholds its international obligations, as a member of the OSCE and of the Council of Europe, to respect democracy and human rights, particularly in Chechnya and over press freedom. Bullying its neighbours is not helpful, particularly when they can now call on the support of an EU and NATO firmly resolved to show strong solidarity over issues like the ban on meat from Poland and the Estonia statue issue we are discussing today.
We need Russia, not only as a reliable trading partner for its oil and gas, but also for its support in containing nuclear proliferation by Iran and North Korea in the Security Council, restarting the Arab-Israeli peace process, finding acceptable solutions to the frozen conflicts from Transnistria and Georgia to Nagorno-Karabakh and containing the despotic regime in Belarus. We also need Russia to sign up to an emissions limitation strategy as a signatory of Kyoto, as we all face the common perils of global warming, and Russia, of course, has a large Arctic presence that would be seriously affected by global warming.
We support Russia’s desire to join the WTO, as we believe making it subject to a rules-based system of multilateral trade will enable complaints to be lodged if it attempts again to arbitrarily impose trade bans, as it did on the issue of the wine ban against Moldova and the mineral water ban on Georgia.
I am sensitive to Russian worries; indeed, they are almost paranoid over their demographic population crisis in future – they are losing some 700 000 citizens every year – and many EU Member States also share the same future challenge. However, I also believe strongly that allowing Russia to probe our weaknesses by splitting the individual EU Member States is not in any of our long-term interests.
Andres Tarand (PSE). – (ET) I would like to speak briefly about Article 4 of the resolution. Some Members have referred to the moving of a statue in Tallinn as an act of provocation against Russia. I must state that it was indeed an act of provocation, but from the Russian side. I will briefly list the evidence.
Firstly, Russia’s preparations began five years ago, although it was one year ago that the celebration of Russian Victory in World War II Day on 9 May at the Tallinn statue was transformed into an event involving vodka drinking and the waving of the Soviet flag, and this in order to provoke scuffles, which indeed to some extent took place. Until then, the statue had stood there for decades without causing any problems, and if our neighbouring country had not initiated acts of provocation near the monument, it would most likely still occupy the same place now.
Secondly, the demonstrations of 26th and 27th April were organised by employees of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn. Over the past few months, numerous meetings have been documented in which the organisers of the recent demonstrations met with employees of the Russian Embassy, apparently in order to obtain directions from professionals in that sphere for sowing instability.
Thirdly, the demonstrations by youths in front of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow were organised and equipped directly by the Kremlin. Russia has deliberately ignored the Vienna Convention and shown no desire to protect Estonian diplomats in Moscow.
Fourthly, the trails from numerous cyber attacks against Estonian information systems led straight to the Kremlin and Russian governmental institutions.
Fifthly, economic sanctions were initiated against Estonia. Whereas until now Russia has exported 25% of its oil using the Estonian railways and ports, last week it transpired that the railway line between Russia and Estonia would need unforeseen repairs. This transparent excuse is naturally a cover for the desire to influence Estonia economically. Such a sanction could also have a direct influence on the European Union’s energy supply. Let us also ask in whose interests it was to stop the St. Petersburg-Tallinn train from running.
Finally, allow me to thank all of Estonia’s many supporters.
Alexander Lambsdorff (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Verheugen just described Russia as our number one strategic partner in Europe, but any strategic partnership is conditional upon the presence of common interests, goals and values, which, I believe, are distinctly conspicuous by their absence in this instance. What, in any case, does a strategic partnership mean to the Russians if such conditions are attached to it? Do the Russians have any kind of conception of what a constructive strategic partnership with the European Union actually is, considering the way they are behaving towards Estonia, and have already done in Kosovo and Moldova? What kind of constructive foreign policy agenda do the Russians have?
You, Commissioner, went on to demand of a strategic partner of the EU an unambiguous commitment to democracy and human rights and the constant effort to make them a reality. Did you not see the pictures of the demonstrators in Moscow and St Petersburg? You are also having talks with the Russians about the human rights dialogue, which has now been hived off from the main summit on the grounds that it would be too difficult and would put too much of a strain on the ordinary summit agenda if one were to talk with the Russians about human rights there.
You say, Commissioner, that we want Russia to be a strong partner. Now, I am no less a friend of Russia than Mr Tannock, and I want Russia to be strong, but strong in the true sense of the word, a Russia that respects human rights, the rights of minorities, the right of assembly, the freedom of the press, rather than a Potemkin Russia whose strength is founded on oil and authoritarianism. If we want to take seriously the underpinning of European foreign policy by certain values, then the least we must do is to bring together the two summits – that is to say, the real summit between the EU and Russia and the human rights dialogue between the two, which has hitherto always taken place, shamefully hidden away, a fortnight before the summit proper.
I would like to see dialogue. So would the Russian opposition, who were with us in this House last week; they too would like dialogue between the EU and Russia, and I hope that such a dialogue will bear fruit, but past experience tends to make me sceptical. I will conclude by saying how glad I am that we are having this debate in Brussels rather than in Strasbourg.
Gintaras Didžiokas (UEN). – (LT) When will the European Union finally understand or recognise that the Polish meat (exports to Russia) issue is not a veterinary or trade issue, and that it is a purely political issue? Likewise, the inspired conflict in Estonia is not an issue about moving monuments. All of these are just political tools being used to try to fracture European Union solidarity. To some countries we promise a bonbon in the form of some economic benefit, while we create a villain of other countries – accusing them of obstructing the development of partnerships. The aim is to weaken the European Union.
When will European Union politicians understand what Russia is really doing? One way to resist such intrusive tactics is to speak unequivocally with one voice. We need to demonstrate real European Union solidarity, not just pay lip-service to it. We need to clearly tell Russia that the European Union will not allow its unity to be manipulated, that the European Union will not betray its ideals and that Russia is making a big mistake in trying to get it to do so. We seek the partnership that is civilised and based on bilateral respect, democracy and the rule of law.
Angelika Beer (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to explain with reference to three points why my group will not be supporting the joint motion for a resolution that is to be voted on tomorrow. We shall be tabling the relevant amendments. As the spokesperson on security policy for my group, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, I should like to state our view that it is high time there was some straight talking. After all, we are not talking about a strategic partnership, but at best of agreeing and deepening a pragmatic partnership.
Russia’s blocking of a peaceful settlement for Kosovo without good cause in these difficult times by threatening to use its veto in the United Nations Security Council is just as unacceptable as its threatened withdrawal from the CSCE treaty, an important element of arms control and disarmament in Europe.
I should like to raise a point about which I am extremely concerned, and which I expect the Council and the Commission to endeavour to clarify. If the eyewitness accounts, the written reports by Amnesty International and the voices of others working locally – in Darfur, that is – are to be believed, in 2005 alone, Russia supplied EUR 15.4 billion worth of weapons of war to Sudan. According to eyewitness accounts, some of these weapons are being used in Darfur.
We may be at a loss as to how to stop the genocide in Darfur, but we have to make every effort to intensify dialogue and negotiations, to strengthen human rights and put an end to the genocide, and to ensure that individual Member States can no longer assert their oil interests. I would appeal to us all not to permit this, and to show Russia the red card in this regard. This situation is unacceptable.
Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, I heard a comment earlier that Russia is a leading strategic partner, but really, should it be? Russia is a gangster state heading for complete dictatorship. Russia has nothing much of international value but its energy resources and it is skilfully using those resources to engineer its resurgence as a world power. Russia is using those energy supplies to further its international geopolitical ambitions by locking the West into those supplies and by establishing international supplier alliances with states unfriendly to the West.
The democratic, energy-hungry West is sleepwalking into a Russian trap baited with energy supplies. Look at what President Putin said in 2003 to Novaya Gazeta: ‘The European Commission had better forget about its illusions. As far as gas is concerned, they will have to deal with the Russian State’. We should be very concerned about what kind of state that is. It is a state where the security services have transformed themselves into a gangster class that rules unrestrained; a state where over 300 journalists have been murdered to discourage those who remain from reporting the truth. It is a state where Russian citizens can murder a critical British citizen on British soil and remain protected in Russia without fear of justice.
The European fly should not accept any invitations into the Russian spider’s parlour. The United Kingdom should ensure its own independent energy supplies by further investment in nuclear energy without delay.
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (PPE-DE). – Mr President, there is a real need for constructive engagement with Russia, but not at any price, nor at the price of EU or Member State sovereignty. We must move beyond broad cooperation schemes and pure rhetoric. Above all, we should avoid complacency and creating false appearances. We should speak the truth, and the truth is that the EU and its Member States cannot focus solely on economic interests, disregarding the worsening situation in Russia with respect to democracy and human rights, and disregarding Russia’s discriminatory policies against its neighbours, including several Member States.
We all wish to see Russia become democratic. Russia is our genuine partner. We have to build trust, but trust based on complying with the values and obligations we sign up to. Above all, Russia must realise that its efforts to play some Member States of the European Union against others are totally counterproductive. The policy of dividing the EU will not work. The Union is founded on the principle of solidarity. Solidarity means ‘one for all and all for one’. Today the ‘one’ is Estonia. Russia’s behaviour towards Estonia is one of a series of unacceptable practices employed by Russia, and there may be more to come. The Union stands behind and with Estonia. The Council and the Commission should be clearer, more vocal and more active.
Make no mistake about it: if one Member State is being treated in a way that is contrary to all the rules of the international community in whatever area – be it trade, energy or political discrimination – our Union as a whole will intervene on its behalf. Our Parliament is the guardian of this solidarity. This is a test not only for the Union as a political project, but also for the common foreign and security policy, and we are going to pass that test.
If Russia wants to be treated as an important player and a great nation rooted in Europe, it must learn to fulfil all its international obligations stemming from Council of Europe membership, being a signatory to the Energy Charter, binding disarmament agreements or eventual – and there is a question mark here – World Trade Organisation membership duties. If we want to develop fruitful and meaningful cooperation with Russia – and we do – we have to open a new era with a new Russia and not go back to the Cold War era of Soviet Union times.
Justas Vincas Paleckis (PSE). – (LT) Even in the twenty-first century, paper is still the fundamental element in the building of bridges between nations. The lack of this element, and the difficulties in drafting a new EU-Russia partnership and cooperation document, are, alas, a reflection of this gloomy reality. From Moscow we hear statements that such an agreement is basically unnecessary. The contrived crisis in Estonian-Russian relations, and therefore in EU-Russia relations, bears witness to an important lack of understanding that all the European Union Member States are both equal and equally sovereign. Nonetheless, dialogue is now all the more necessary, because the alternative is a return to the still-not-overgrown trenches of the Cold War. Such an option would not be helpful to anyone in today's already unstable world. The difficult talks in Samara should be a step forward toward a clearer and franker statement of positions and the formulation of political rules of play that correspond to the new realities.
The document we are considering correctly stresses that a new agreement would be very important for deepening economic cooperation and strengthening security and stability in Europe. Strategic partnership with Russia remains a European Union goal, as emphasised in the draft resolution. However, both parties need to seek this goal by strengthening human rights, democracy and free speech, and renouncing great-power and imperial ambitions.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (ALDE). – (NL) Mr President, ‘Moscow is being obstructive because it can afford to be’ was the headline of a recent article in a well-known Dutch newspaper, and it is true: we are being messed about! During our recent visit in Moscow, I was reminded of the fact that while Europe has its truth, the Russians deliver their own truth, bolstered, among others, by the Union’s incapacity to speak clearly with one voice, as a result of which we come across as diffident and even divided.
We appear to be gradually casting aside the role as an example which we in the EU could have. Nobody is doing that for us; we are doing it entirely on our own. Mr Putin, backed by his country’s fast growing economy, is cashing in on this. He turns the EU into a caricature when it suits him. Russia is once again a force to be reckoned with, and the EU should know it. Russia is being provocative.
The list of controversial issues, which have all been mentioned, is growing, and includes the American plans for a rocket shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, Mr Putin’s announcement of his intention to suspend the disarmament treaty, major international issues such as Kosovo, but also the Middle East and Sudan, energy policy as a geopolitical instrument, the democratic deficit, the violation of human rights, Chechnya, and of course we should not forget the crisis in Estonia and the import ban on Polish meat. Finally, there is sovereignty of third countries. The list is growing, and so is the level of distrust.
Whilst the wishes and expectations are varied, increasing mutual dependence and Russia’s closeness turn the setting of priorities into a necessity. It is of crucial importance in this respect – and this is at the same time an express appeal to the Council President – for the EU to retain its internal unanimity. We should not give Russia the opportunity to turn the EU into a caricature. We should put our own house in order. Only then can the Union adopt effective and firm policy in respect of that country.
Mirosław Mariusz Piotrowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, it is clear to all of us today the furore Russia is raising regarding the embargo on Polish meat exports is purely political in nature. There is no doubt that the Polish side has been fulfilling all the sanitary requirements.
The Russian Government has no intention of compromising, but is methodically increasing the divisions within the European Union. Furthermore, it has taken the liberty of interfering in the internal affairs of Estonia, a sovereign state which is a member of the EU. Russia is also applying such methods against other neighbours that used to be Soviet satellites.
Dialogue and negotiation are important values. But in the present circumstances, a mandate for negotiation at the European Union-Russia summit would signify not just a return to the political practices of the cold war, but would set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE-DE). – (NL) Mr President, it is absolutely vital for the European Union to make headway and deepen relations with Russia. Good partnership, however, also means that problems and differences can be discussed out in the open and that partners are prepared to learn from this in order to keep their relationship viable. In a relationship, the channels of communication should be kept open at all times. I hope, for our sake, that the negotiations about a new partnership agreement can start soon – a fresh agreement, which, whilst it should be based on experience of the past decade, must also clear the path for a fresh dialogue in the next few years.
We have to stop talking in statements, and instead, hold talks in a structured dialogue, without – whatever else we do – avoiding problems in the process. Russia is not short of them as it is; the freedom of the media, the way in which democracy is working, the way in which rules for elections and being elected are laid down, the position of NGOs as well as the human rights situation – and I would refer the House to the Council of Europe’s report on Chechnya – all these things should be on the agenda.
Internationally, too, Europe and Russia need each other; Kosovo is a case in point. Russia cannot simply issue a veto; it is not in the interests of the region. We also need each other, though, when it comes to dealing with Iran and North Korea.
Finally, I should like to address the tension between Estonia and Russia, for tension is not only running high in both countries, but now, not least thanks to Russia’s reaction, has also become a European problem. The list of problems between the Baltic states and Russia is still getting longer. Problems are there to be solved, but what is entirely lacking is any sense of caution and tact in dealing with each other.
I am all for an active policy on Eastern Europe, but this policy cannot be adopted unless we in the EU are in agreement with it. That means, then, that the Baltic Member States too must support it too, so it is unacceptable that we, as a European Union, should accept action in the shape of penal sanctions directed against a member of our family. It is certainly not in our interest, or in Russia’s interest, to let tension run high.
It is now up to the European Union to finally make a move. The Council and Commission must join with Parliament in spelling out with one voice that whilst the European Union repudiates threats to EU Members, we are also prepared, where possible, to commit to improving the dialogue and setting up constructive cooperation. The German Presidency has set the right tone for this, and I think that the summit provides a good opportunity to develop this further.
Józef Pinior (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, today’s plenary session is taking place on the anniversary of the end of World War II. As a Pole, I would like to remember all the Soviet soldiers who perished during the war fighting fascism. We all remember their self-sacrifice, we all remember those simple soldiers, those grey infantrymen, as Bulat Okudzhava so beautifully described them in his song.
We in the European Union are united by a desire for good relations with Russia. These good relations are based on economic, strategic and geopolitical necessity. At the same time, Russia is not an easy partner for the European Union. Obviously, we cannot and will not tolerate any expressions of Russian neo-imperialist policy of the type Russia has shown in recent days towards Estonia. For this reason we must give our full support and show complete solidarity with the Estonian Government and the people of Estonia in the coming days.
Commissioner, Minister, I would like to remind you of the letter Amnesty International wrote to the leaders of the European Union before the Samara meeting drawing their attention to need to bring up with President Putin human rights violations such as restrictions on freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and in particular press freedom, as well as the growing number of journalists being killed in Russia. These are problems which our leaders have to put directly before the Russian Government at the Samara summit.
Guntars Krasts (UEN). – (LV) The European Union sees Russia as a good long-term partner, but is it using its influence to encourage Russia to become a democratic and predictable neighbour? Since Russia acquired the status of a big energy player, its domestic and foreign policy is taking on increasingly unattractive forms. The European Union, however, confronted with Russia’s new policies, is not functioning as a united force but as individual Member States, and in situations of conflict with Russia, EU Member States are directed to resolve the conflicts bilaterally. The most recent example of this is Russia’s gross interference in the internal affairs of the European Union Member State of Estonia, even extending to demands for Estonia’s democratically elected parliament and government to resign. The European Union did not let the opportunity pass to remain silent, in contrast, for instance, to the US president and senate, who expressed strong support for Estonia. The European Union Presidency is trying to make the conflict into an issue to be resolved bilaterally between Estonia and Russia. Russia may be allowed to divide the European Union into small and large states, new and old states, partner states and ungrateful states across the border. The next summit meeting between the European Union and Russia will, in many aspects, be a significant test of the European Union’s ability to work as a union. Thank you.
József Szájer (PPE-DE). – (HU) Russia is a European country, with which we share a common culture and social, cultural and intellectual roots that go back more than 1 000 years. The European Union needs a democratic Russia. What the European Union needs is a democratic Russia. The main condition for a partnership, however, must be democracy and the rule of law, and unfailing respect for the principles of equal rights.
This is irreconcilable with what Russia is currently doing to our Estonian brethren. It is irreconcilable with this interference in Estonia’s own affairs in violation of international norms and law. Estonia is the Union – and the Union is Estonia. This is not simply the affair of one country, but of the entire Union. This is not simply a question of solidarity, but of sovereignty.
Ladies and gentlemen, is it not absurd that the Union is now preparing for a high-level summit meeting with the leaders of such a country and is talking about a relationship of balanced partnership, seeks to relax visa requirements and supports the membership in the World Trade Organization of a country that behaves in this way with one of the EU Member States, as if it could interfere with impunity in its internal affairs. This is unacceptable and, I have to say, a matter of principle, a matter of principle on which we cannot compromise.
Therefore I call upon, I urge the European Commission and the Council to halt preparations for the EU-Russia summit until Russia has stopped applying pressure on Estonia. The Union must send a clear message. So far and no further.
Monika Beňová (PSE). – (SK) In 1945 we were liberated by the Red Army. I believe that we owe a certain respect and gratitude in return.
The problems, however, began when parts of that Army stayed on in our countries, including my own, under all sorts of noble pretexts such as 'economic aid' or 'protection', and those pretexts eventually ended in our countries being fenced off by barbed wire and our economies lagging so far behind that in the early 1990s we had to start building them up from scratch.
The reason why I am making this brief historical reference is that when we speak today of the EU-Russian summit we tend to use many noble phrases; we need, however, to keep in mind that the European Union’s gains over the past 10 years have been Russia’s losses over the same period. Russia is keenly aware of this and not at all pleased about it. If we are to speak about an equal partnership with Russia, we would be well advised to see to it that the partnership is genuinely equal and not let ourselves be misled by fine phrases as the generations before us were 62 years ago.
Wojciech Roszkowski (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, relations between the EU and Russia have become more difficult since Russia reverted to its old imperial policy, best illustrated by the recent events in Estonia. The sovereign government in Estonia has a right, indeed a duty, to remove traces of Soviet oppression, and Russia’s response puts that country in a poor light.
The Kremlin has also stoked up a smear campaign against Poland, and unfortunately in Strasbourg some members of this House have succumbed to it. Although Poland has bent over backwards to show its good will, Russia has not raised the ban on Polish meat imports, but is actually widening the embargo.
President Putin even wants to issue a decree protecting the sites of monuments outside Russia. Does this mean that Russian law will extend to the territory of the European Union? This debate has shown that at the Samara summit the European Union must be much more decisive, particularly when it comes to standing up for the interests of all, and not just a few, Member States.
Christopher Beazley (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I have two questions for Minister Gloser in his reply to this debate.
It is quite clear that, at the Summit in Samara, on the assumption it goes ahead, the Council, the Presidency – his colleagues – and the Federal Chancellor will also have to reflect the views expressed in this Parliament. It quite clearly cannot be ‘business as usual’ with President Putin’s Russia. Could he explain in his reply how the Summit will reflect our concern and our refusal to agree that Estonia is the cause of this crisis?
We have been told that we must not escalate the crisis, we must de-escalate it. But we, the EU, did not begin this crisis. If you look at the transcript of the film of the so-called ‘riots’ in Tallinn, you see pictures of desultory groups of youths smashing windows and stealing luxury goods. What on earth has that got to do with respect for the millions of Russian dead in the Second World War? We simply cannot accept the version which President Putin is putting out, as opposed to his predecessors, Yeltsin and Gorbachev, who began the reform movement within Russia.
So, Minister, in your reply could you please say what specific démarches the Presidency would take during the Summit to underline the fact that, without mutual understanding, there can be no successful negotiations? It is not a question of Estonia, as has been said before: Latvia has been attacked by President Putin, as have the Czech Republic, Poland and indeed my own country’s Ambassador. So, could we have some specifics as to how the Summit will differ because of the way the Russian Government has presented this problem?
Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) The attack by hackers based in Russia on the IT infrastructure of a European Union Member State, Estonia, has lasted for nearly two weeks. This cyber attack means that access to Estonian media web pages has been either completely obstructed or seriously hampered. The hackers also sought to block the web pages of Estonia’s ministries. On 3rd May, the server for the Prime Minister’s office received 90 000 queries in one hour. Estonia was able to fend off the attack, but Russia’s toleration of the event is an act of aggression that demands a response.
The Russian secret services have used information blackout as a tool for the manipulation of the masses ever since the Cold War. In the 21st century, a situation in which it is impossible to communicate with a country via the Internet is more serious than the breaking of a window at that country’s embassy in Moscow. I welcome the fact that a strongly worded article supporting Estonia has been added to our resolution.
The topic of cyberspace security must definitely be discussed with Russia at the Samara Summit. Our strategy must be to avoid a cyber war with our strategic partner, Russia. The European Union must treat a cyber attack against one Member State as an attack against the entire European Union. This must be made very clear to the Russians.
Jan Tadeusz Masiel (UEN). – (PL) Mr President, let the EU-Russia summit be an occasion for improving our relations, and let it also be an occasion for deeper integration within the EU by showing solidarity with Estonia and Poland. We must give Russia credit where it is due and praise it for its successes but criticise it for injustice. We must not be afraid to stand up to Russia when the truth is on our side. We are highly critical of the Belarussian Government, when in fact the Russian Government is actually not that different. Russia must acknowledge the occupation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and, at a different level, of all countries in the Soviet bloc. I call upon those in charge of the negotiations at the summit to finally let Russia know that Poland is a European Union Member State just as much as Germany or Britain are.
And finally, Commissioner, I would like to thank you for all your efforts, but more decisiveness is needed. Russia must promptly lift the Polish meat embargo and not gradually over time. Please inform President Putin of the will of this House.
President. I have received six motions for a resolution(1) in accordance with Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.
The debate is closed.
The vote will take place tomorrow at 11 a.m.
Written Statements (Article 142)
Athanasios Pafilis (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (EL) The debate on events in Estonia on 9 May, the day of the anti-fascist victory, not only disrespects the memory of the tens of millions of people who sacrificed their lives to crush fascism. It is not merely an effort to falsify and distort history. It is not what is the now familiar anti-communist invective of the servants of capitalist barbarism.
It is a conscious policy to support the revival of fascism in the Baltic and other states of Europe with the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, the neo-liberals and the Greens all going along with the far-right group.
In a uniform tirade, right-wingers, social democrats, Greens and Le Pen launched a vitriolic anticommunist attack on the Soviet Union and the heroic Red Army. Together they expressed their solidarity with the Estonian Government which, for years now, has been replacing the fascists by condemning communists and anti-fascists.
Together they demonstrated what is historical and political record: that fascism is a pure child of capitalism. In this debate it was also expressed formally, thereby revealing the nature of the EU as a union of the interests of capital.
Moreover, fascism constitutes the same power as capital, without a parliamentary cloak.
We would point out that the more the people doubt, condemn, resist and fight against imperialist barbarity, the more anticommunism will increase.
History has proven that those who temporarily appear to be very strong were crushed by the grassroots fight.
9 May 1945 will always be just such a symbolic date.
Alexander Stubb (PPE-DE), in writing. – (FI) The row over the statue cannot be ignored.
Today it was Europe Day. We are celebrating the European Union and the peace process which European integration has brought with it.
There are, however, two sides to this day. For the Russians it is a celebration of victory in the Second World War. The moved statue is a symbol of this. For many of the present EU Member States, however, the celebration of victory, and the statue in Tallinn, symbolise the start of a long period of oppression in the Soviet Union.
It is no wonder, then, that they wanted to remove the statue in Tallinn. You do not need to be a fascist to want to move a symbol of oppression which is still fresh in the mind.
This is no longer a matter of Estonia’s internal affairs. Russia, and the stance it has taken with its ‘next-door neighbour policy’ have made the row over the statue a matter for the EU.
We talk a lot about solidarity. It would be shameful of us to appeal to the agenda and put the matter off until the Strasbourg part-session. The rules have been made for us, not us for the rules. If we cannot deal with this right away because of the rules, I want the rules changed.
We can make speeches about solidarity, but now it is time for action: ‘Estlands sak är vår sak!’