With the rise of new areas of tension between the EU and Russia, MEPs voice their support for sanctions, the cancellation of Nord Stream 2 and a better EU response to combat cyber threats.
In a resolution adopted on Monday, Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs assess the state of play in the EU-Russia political relations. They state that the EU should cooperate with Russia only in areas of common interests, which makes the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) necessary to reconsider.
Sanctions must be prolonged
MEPs note that new areas of tension between the EU and Russia have arisen since 2015, including the Russian intervention in Syria and interference in countries such as Libya and Central African Republic, Russia‘s support for anti-EU parties and far-right movements, the Russian meddling in other countries‘ political elections and extensive human rights violations in the own country. They condemn Russia‘s actions in the Sea of Azov and its repeated violations of the territorial waters and air space of the countries in the Baltic Sea region.
The report underlines that the full implementation of the so-called Minsk Agreements and broader respect for international law remain key preconditions for closer EU cooperation with Russia. In the meantime, the current sanctions must remain in place and the EU has to stand ready to take further action, especially by means of targeted sanctions against individuals, the text says. MEPs call, in this context, on EU countries concerned to end all 'golden visa/passport' programmes and urge the European Commission and EEAS to prepare the proposal for a European version of the US law known as the Magnitsky Act.
Addressing global challenges
Although Foreign Affairs MEPs no longer want to consider Russia a strategic partner, they underline that the EU is currently Russia‘s largest trade partner and will keep this position in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, MEPs reiterate their call for the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 project, since it reinforces EU dependancy on Russian gas supplies and threatens the EU internal market.
Global challenges, such as climate change, energy security, digitalisation and artificial intelligence and the fight against terrorism call for selective engagement with Russia, says the text. MEPs also stress the importance of continued political and financial support for people-to-people contacts with a focus on youth.
Response to disinformation
MEPs finally condemn Russia‘s disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks, aimed at increasing tensions within the EU and its member states. They are also deeply concerned that the EU‘s response to the propaganda and disinformation is insufficient and should be further strengthened, in particular before the upcoming European elections in May 2019. In this regard, the funding and human resources for the EU‘s East Stratcom Task Force must be substantially increased, they stress.
The report on the state of EU-Russia political relations was adopted by 27 votes to 4, with 15 abstentions. It will be voted on by the full House during the March plenary session in Strasbourg.