Sandra Kalniete: “Russia can no longer be considered a strategic partner of the EU” 

Sandra Kalniete  

“Awareness of the threat of Russia is ever growing,” says MEP Sandra Kalniete ahead of MEPs adopting a resolution on EU-Russia relations on 12 March. Find out more in our interview.

Five years after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, what is Parliament’s message on Ukraine?

As our close neighbour, stability, prosperity and democracy for Ukraine are very important for Europe. In our report, we stress that Russia can no longer be considered a strategic partner of the EU.

We call for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement, and on Crimea, we do not accept Russia’s annexation. We also draw attention to the human rights situation of Crimean Tatars, the case of political prisoners detained in Russia under very doubtful accusations and we ask for the release of the Ukrainian sailors arrested in the Kerch Strait.

President Barack Obama signed the US Magnitsky Act in December 2012 to target the Russian officials deemed responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009. You are also calling for a legislative proposal to create a European version of this. Could you tell us more about it?

We have a proposal on EU sanctions for human rights violations, inspired by the Magnitsky Act in the US. Some EU countries already have lists sanctioning people who are gross violators of human rights; we are proposing the creation of an EU-wide list. This is the fifth report by Parliament calling for a European Magnitsky Act.

What role does EU dependency on Russian gas play in political relations between the two?

Let’s take the Nord Stream 2 pipeline: its only purpose is to avoid Ukraine, causing huge damage to its budget because of a loss of transit payments. To those who say Nord Stream 2 is an economic project, which will provide cheap energy, my answer is very simple: the money Russia gains from selling gas to Europe is put into its military industry, heightening the threat against the EU, and providing more money for online manipulation and disinformation.

We need to stop Nord Stream 2. The EU has a very clear common energy policy, which this project completely contradicts. What we need is a diversification of our energy supply.

Ahead of the EU elections, what are Parliament’s proposals for tackling Russian cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns?

Immediately after the start of the aggression in eastern Ukraine, when hybrid disinformation flooded Europe, we asked the EEAS to create a task force to tackle the problem. Since Russian meddling in US elections and in the Brexit referendum and since the Skripal poisoning, awareness of the threat of Russia is ever growing.

This month marks eight years since the start of the war in Syria: what is Parliament’s position on Russian intervention in the conflict?

Since Russia intervened in Syria, it has become an unavoidable partner in the negotiations for a peaceful solution. Yet I do not see Russia as part of the solution in Syria, it is part of the problem. The presence of Russian bases in the Mediterranean is very worrying and dangerous. With its foot in the Mediterranean, Moscow is strengthening its ever-extending presence in our neighbourhood. Additionally, Russia is blocking everything on the UN Security Council, again confirming that it is part of the problem.