What is Russia's diplomatic strategy
Europe's strategy towards Russia
Russia's role in the Syria conflict
In a resolution passed two weeks ago, the EU Parliament condemned the atrocities in Syria in the strongest possible terms and "called on all parties to the conflict, especially Russia and the Assad regime, to stop all attacks on civilians (...)." Tensions between Russia, the EU and the US have since increased as Russia continues to provide military support for Assad's offensive and the bombing of Aleppo. Tonight (October 20th) the EU heads of state and government will discuss how relations with Russia should develop in this context. On Monday (October 17th) the EU foreign ministers repeatedly emphasized that there could be no military solution to the Syria conflict and that a political solution would have to be found.
Sanctions in response to the annexation of Crimea and Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict
In March 2014, in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and Moscow's participation in the war in Ukraine, the EU imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia. Russia, in turn, decided to ban the import of food and agricultural products from the EU. With the Minsk Accords, a roadmap for peace is on the table, which Ukraine and Russia co-signed. The main cornerstones are: a comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire, local elections in the eastern areas and the complete restoration of border controls through Ukraine, accompanied by the withdrawal of all troops. In March 2015, the European heads of state and government agreed to link the existing sanctions to the full implementation of these agreements.
"There can be no military solution to the Ukraine conflict. A peaceful solution presupposes the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements and thus respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," emphasized the chairman of the delegation in the EU-Russia parliamentary cooperation committee, Othmar Karas ( EPP), from Austria. "Since Minsk has not been implemented, there can be no end or relaxation of the sanctions," he added.
In this context, the EU Parliament regards maintaining the unified appearance of the member states as an “absolute priority”.
Reduce energy dependence on Russia
The EU Parliament welcomes the EU Commission's proposals for an energy union, as this could reduce dependency on energy imports from Russia. Russia has "turned out to be an unreliable partner and used its energy supplies as a political weapon," the MEPs said in a resolution. In this context, Parliament calls for solidarity within the EU as a number of Member States are dependent on Russia for almost all of their gas imports.
In June 2015, MEPs expressed their deep concern "about Russia's support and funding for radical and extremist parties in EU member states". They also highlighted that Russia is restricting media and internet freedom and spreading anti-EU propaganda and disinformation.
"I support the EU's initiatives to combat Russia's ongoing war of disinformation and propaganda. That does not mean falling into counter-propaganda, but rather correcting facts and proactively informing about our values and EU policies," emphasizes Othmar Karas. A recent report by the Foreign Affairs Committee reads similarly. According to the MEPs, the Russian government uses a large number of different instruments such as think tanks, multilingual TV stations, social media and internet trolls for this propaganda purposes.
For constructive EU-Russia relations
Regarding the question of future EU-Russia relations, also in connection with common global challenges, Othmar Karas says: "The European Union must unite and resolutely reaffirm the principles of international law and at the same time be open to use every opportunity for dialogue. ” And he adds: "In order to find ways out of the stressful situation, we have to intensify the exchange with Russian civil society, promote interpersonal contacts and must not let the daily political dialogue with President Putin and Russian members of the government break off."
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