European Parliament calls on Russia to refrain from exerting pressure on Eastern Partnership countries
The European Parliament has supported a resolution on the pressure exerted by Russia on Eastern Partnership countries (in the context of the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius), in which it calls on the EU to take concrete measures to support Eastern Partnership countries and to convince Russia that the European integration of the Eastern Partnership countries is in Moscow's interests.
The resolution was supported by a simple majority during a vote held in Strasbourg on Thursday as part of a plenary meeting of the European Parliament. One the eve of the vote the European Parliament held a debate on this issue, in which MEPs strongly criticized Moscow's position and expressed support for Eastern Partnership countries.
"[The European Parliament] stresses the need for the EU to fulfill its responsibility to engage and to defend those Eastern Partnership countries that have been exposed to Russia's open, alarming and escalating pressures intended to deter them from entering into association with the EU, and asks the [European] Commission and the [European] Council to come forward with concrete, effective measures to support the partner countries," reads the resolution.
In addition, the EP noted that the Association Agreements and DCFTAs are aimed at boosting the competitiveness, economic output and performance of partner countries and of the EU, while at the same time respecting the Eastern Partnership countries' economic cooperation with Russia in a way that is beneficial to all parties. The resolution also states that any trade disputes should be resolved in accordance with the rules and obligations laid down in the World Trade Organization.
"The EU 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 following the signing or initialing of the Association Agreements or DCFTAs, and pursuing visa facilitation measures and the prospect of visa-free travel," reads the resolution.
The European Parliament also believes that further political and economic reform in these countries, based on EU values and standards, "is ultimately in Russia's own interest, as it would expand the zone of stability, prosperity and cooperation along its borders," and recalls the EU's standing invitation to Russia to contribute to this process via constructive engagement with the Eastern Partnership 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; firmly rejects, moreover, the zero-sum game as a paradigm for EU and Russian relations with the Eastern Partnership countries," reads the document.
The resolution also calls on the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) "to consider those developments beyond a purely trade dimension, which is merely a cover for blatant political pressure, and to take action in defense of the Union's partners, sending a strong message of support for all Eastern Partnership countries in their European aspirations and choices."
The resolution also contains a provision on the European Parliament's strong support for the initialing or signing of the Association Agreements at the Vilnius Summit with those Eastern Partnership countries "which are ready and willing to do so, provided that the relevant requirements are met."
"[The EP] believes that this will give renewed impetus to gradual integration and a substantial deepening of relations, thereby responding to those countries' European aspirations; calls, in this context, on the Eastern Partnership countries to continue and step up their efforts to conclude their current work in the run-up to the summit, and not to succumb to the pressure exerted upon them," reads the document.
The resolution also states that the principles of equality and respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs, good cooperation among states and the fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law, as agreed in the framework of the Helsinki Accords, are fundamentals governing international relations among independent states and, as such, should in no way be infringed upon.