On September 12, the European Parliament approved by simple majority the resolution “Pressure exerted by Russia on Eastern Partnership countries (in the context of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius).” The MEPs called upon Russia “to refrain from taking any action which is in clear contradiction to the abovementioned Helsinki principles” and “respect fully their sovereign right to pursue their own political choices.”
On the other hand, they noted that there is a “need for the EU to fulfil its responsibility to engage and to defend in the spirit of solidarity those Eastern Partnership countries that have been exposed to Russia’s open, alarming and escalating pressures” and asked “the Commission and the Council to come forward with concrete, effective measures to support the partner countries.”
“[The European Parliament] Strongly underlines the fact that the free choices of the Eastern Partnership countries, which do not have any negative impact whatsoever on trade with Russia, should not make them bear consequences such as trade measures, visa restrictions, worker mobility restrictions, and interference in frozen conflicts,” the document reads.
The MEPs also noted that the EU is ready to help its partners in their integration efforts with the help of temporary application of the corresponding sections of the Association Agreements or DCFTAs as soon as the latter are signed.
In particular, the resolution says that the European Union is ready “to assist Eastern Partnership partners in their integration efforts by supporting the provisional application of the relevant sections of the Association Agreements or DCFTAs upon signature, unfreezing suspended loans and assistance programs if the required conditions are met, pursuing visa facilitation measures and the prospect of visa-free travel.”
According to MEP Pawel Zalewsky, apart from the words of condemnation, which indisputably have symbolic value, “this resolution includes proposals of very concrete steps.” “I think the most important is the point that calls the EU Council to provisionally apply the sections that concern the Free Trade Area immediately after the Association Agreement is signed.” To do so without waiting till the Agreement is ratified by national parliaments, which could take two or three years. “As a result of provisional application of the clauses concerning the free trade area between Ukraine and the EU, Europe will open its market for Ukrainian goods,” said the MEP.
“THIS RESOLUTION WILL HAVE NEGATIVE EFFECT ON RUSSIA’S IMAGE”
Aliona HETMANCHUK, director of the Institute of the World Politics:
“The importance of this resolution should be considered more from the point of morality and psychology. For we understand that the thing is above all about moral support. The problem is that the European Union and Russia act on absolutely different planes. The EU, fortunately or not, is not able to come down to the level Russia uses in its dialogue with Eastern Partnership countries, such as economic pressure, embargo, etc. The EU more appeals to political statements and such kind of support as this resolution. At the moment, it is very important. But Russia will find effective only the steps that meet its understanding of how one must achieve the results. It is a positive signal when the European Parliament proposes to the European Commission to make some concrete steps. Regrettably, some Eastern Partnership countries expect not only moral support from the EU, but concrete steps as well. It is no lass important that the European Parliament stated that all sides are interested in the trade with Russia, both the countries of Eastern Partnership, and the EU. For everyone will suffer if any goods are blocked.
“I think this resolution will have a negative effect on Russia’s image. I don’t expect it to have any practical effect, for Russia clearly has its own plan concerning the Vilnius summit. Probably, this resolution, if followed by concrete decisions of the European commission and some member states, will help Russia develop an understanding that it needs to correct its plan of pressure on Eastern Partnership countries. However, Russian leaders have long time ago gotten used to the fact that the EU loves to make numerous statements which are not an argument to Russia in its change of approach to Eastern Partnership or its foreign policy choice.”