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Laima Andrikiene on EU - Russia relations

Laima Andrikiene (EPP-ED, Lithuania)
Speech on EU Commission and Council Statements on EU-Russia Relations
EP plenary session
Strasbourg - October 21, 2008

Russia – Georgia war and its aftermath point to a political necessity for the EU to seriously reassess its relations with Russia, and that has been rightly pointed out by Madame Commissioner today. In addition, business-as-usual should be suspended until Europe gets clear answers from Russia to some very important questions.

It needs to be said that Europe must find the way to speak to Russia with a new, different, stronger voice. The reason for this is that Russia has reverted to the 19th century “spheres of influence” approach, or simply put, the doctrine of realpolitik. Russia’s talk of privileged interests in its neighbourhood is a testimony to this. This realpolitik is being fuelled by aggressive nationalism at home and by enemy-labelling in Russia of the countries surrounding it. In such light it is crucial for Europe to understand that it needs to implement its harder instruments of power.

The European reaction to the Russian – Georgian conflict and its aftermath has been mixed. In sum, there is a sense that the relations between EU and Russia are returning to business-as-usual. This is happening despite the fact that Moscow has not yet fully complied with its commitments regarding the troop withdrawal and, more importantly, recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

If the EU is pushed into a position to accept Russian terms of the post-conflict status quo, then what appeared to be the Emus initial diplomatic victory could turn into significant political and diplomatic defeat.

Returning to business-as-usual before Moscow fully complies with its commitments is close to appeasement.

Europe needs to engage Russia but do so in a principled and consistent manner.

EU’s leverage over Russia is limited, nevertheless, Russia would clearly care about a united Western stance; Russia is very sensitive about issues of its international standing and prestige (for instance, considerations G7 versus G8).  Technology related research programmes, trade agreement on nuclear fuels – is also something Moscow is interested in.

The EU must remain strong and consistent to promote its vision of how the partnership with Russia should evolve.