EU Foreign Policy towards Russia

Resolution submitted by: JEF Political Commission 3 – External Affairs and Global Governance
Adopted by the Federal Committee in London on 23 March 2019

The unity among EU Member States is being increasingly put to the test by an aggressive Russian foreign policy with a severe impact on EU internal affairs and in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood. Considering the frozen conflicts in Moldova and Georgia, the Russian annexation of Ukrainian Crimea and the support for pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine and beyond, are only the latest examples of Russia’s destabilising involvement in post-Soviet states. Furthermore, Russia has with its intervention in the Syrian crisis further amplified the refugee crisis by disregarding the lives of civilians in the conflict zone. Finally, the undermining activities by the Russian Federation against EU Member States, such as interference in the democratic process and the financial support of anti-EU parties is concerning. The EU and its Member States’ reactions have been characterised by disunity and diverging interests, as well as a lack of appreciation of the gravity of the situation, thereby weakening the common position vis-à-vis the Russian Federation. Taking into account our shared interest in rule of international law, democratic principles, the protection of the interest of the European people and our fundamental values, JEF Europe calls for a common, clearly shaped long-term EU strategy towards Russia.

JEF Europe,

  • Acknowledging the importance of Russia as a European nation in European history, and as a contributor to European culture and civilisation and a part of the European family;
  • Recognising the EU’s long-standing efforts to build a mutually beneficial strategic partnership with Russia based on shared values and principles, such as democracy and the rule of law, and on common interests;
  • Recalling the JEF Europe Resolution on Ukraine, 3rd April 2016 which outlined a vision of peaceful transition of independent Ukraine striving for closer partnership with the EU, and the JEF Europe Resolution on the EU’s potential reactions to the hybrid nature of Russian Foreign Policy;
  • Deploring the illegal annexation of Crimea, lawfully belonging to Ukraine, as well as the referendum of questionable legitimacy of March 16, 2014 and the numerous and repeated violations of international borders by the Russian Federation;
  • Profoundly concerned by the irresponsible and provocative actions by Russian ground, air and naval forces near and within the territory of EU and NATO Member States;
  • Alarmed by the stationing of nuclear-capable missiles in the Kaliningrad exclave bordering EU Member States, violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which limits deployment of ballistic missiles of certain range;
  • Denouncing Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, as well as its blatant disregard for human rights in the conflict;
  • Recognising the over-dependency of some EU Member States on Russian oil and gas accounting for 70% of Russian exports; but similarly remembering the strong economic advantage the EU has over Russia illustrated both in the financial and industrial sectors;
  • Denouncing the Russian actions aimed at destabilising its neighbours (e.g. Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova) through trade embargos or the conclusion of integration treaties in separatist or breakaway regions under the misguided notion that the Russian Federation is the protector of supposed ethnic or linguistic groups outside of the borders of its own state;
  • Emphasising that restrictive measures and sanctions by the European Union are not directed against the Russian citizens, but only against the political leadership, as well as certain individuals and enterprises connected to the Russian leadership, and that the projected impact upon Russian citizens should be minimised;
  • Denouncing the ‘golden visas and passports’ policies implemented by some Member States, undermining economic sanctions towards Russian oligarchs;
  • Deploring that Russia with its counter-sanctions has targeted agricultural products, further worsening the conditions of its own people with increasing food prices as a result, wrongfully blaming the European Union for the consequences;
  • Denouncing the wave of wide-ranging cyber-attacks on government ministries, political parties, NGOs, electoral processes, newspapers, banks, companies, and critical infrastructure in and beyond Europe, at times with material damage as result;
  • Considering such actions as aggression and parts of a destabilising effort;
  • Concerned by ever-growing restrictions on media and internet freedom, the tightening of online media control, the tendency of the Russian state-controlled media to rewrite and reinterpret historical events, such as the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret protocols, as well as the restrictive use of historical narratives for current political propaganda, amounting to disinformation, troll factories, propaganda and indoctrination practices;
  • Deeply concerned with the financial support and legitimisation Russia gives to extremist and nationalist anti-European parties (e.g. Rassemblement National, Alternative für Deutschland, Lega);
  • Adhering to the EU-NATO joint declaration of 8 July 2016, calling for a series of actions the EU and NATO intend to take together in concrete areas, including countering hybrid threats, defence capacity building, cyber defence, maritime security, and military exercises;
  • Taking into account, with concern, the Russian boycott of the Council of Europe through non-participation in the Parliamentary Assembly and the budget of the institution.

JEF Europe therefore,

  1. Encourages the development of peaceful interpersonal relations between the EU and Russian citizens;
  2. Condemns the reckless and illegal actions of the Russian authorities which have been the cause of the present state of tension which exists between the EU and the Russian Federation;
  3. Calls for the EU to formulate a strategy that can ensure and strengthen Member States’ cohesion regarding Russia and promote its interest in the Eastern Neighbourhood in line with European principles and interests, bearing in mind the wide range of tools that the EU can utilise vis-a-vis Russia;
  4. Stresses that Russia, because of actions such as those in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, as well as its continued provocations/aggressions, currently cannot be considered neither trustworthy nor a reliable partner. Partnerships must be based on mutual trust, respect for international law and respect for the rule of law, human rights, and the principles of international diplomacy and trade;
  5. Calls on the EU to remain open to such a relationship under the precondition that the Russian authorities meet their international, moral and legal obligations;
  6. Urges the EU, until the Russian Federation lives up to its obligations and partnership can be pursued, to remain firm and engage with Russia on a reciprocal level, rewarding positive behaviour while sanctioning misdemeanours;
  7. Reaffirming in this regard its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as set out in the Helsinki Final Act;
  8. Calls on political leaders in EU Member States as well as the Russian Federation to refrain from making historically distorted analogies to the Cold War in the present-day context;
  9. Calls on the Member States to regard as an absolute priority the preservation of unity and to abstain from bilateral relations and agreements which could undermine the common line;
  10. Questions the purpose of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and whether it is a regional cooperation to strengthen peace and prosperity in the region or rather a tool serving largely Russian interests and dominance over neighbouring countries;
  11. Firmly supports the swift creation of a European Energy Union, specifically the interconnection of national energy networks in order to reduce considerably the dependence of individual Member States on Russia, a country that has repeatedly shown its willingness to abuse its energy reserves as political weapons;
  12. Calls for the strengthening of analytical and monitoring capabilities of Russian disinformation campaigns, such as the already existing East StratCom Task Force, and calls on the Commission to set aside adequate funding for concrete projects aimed at countering Russian disinformation within the EU and in the Eastern Partnership by promoting and strengthening media pluralism and availability of factual information within these countries;
  13. Calls on the EU to provide support to projects aimed at promoting and developing high journalistic standards, freedom of the media, and unbiased and trustworthy information, including in the Russian-language in Eastern Partnership countries and Russia in order to provide Russian-speaking audiences with credible and independent sources of information;
  14. Stresses the importance of continued support for independent civil society activists, human rights defenders, bloggers, independent media, outspoken academics and public figures and NGOs, with a view to promoting democratic values, fundamental freedoms and human rights in Russia and in occupied Crimea;
  15. Underlines the need to promote people-to-people contacts and to maintain strong dialogue and cooperation between civil society actors and local authorities, with a view to improving mutual understanding between Russia and the EU;
  16. Calls upon the Russian Federation to fully comply with its international obligations as a member of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by which it has committed itself to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights;
  17. Encourages a mediation between Russia and the Council of Europe to find a compromise and put an end to the Russian boycott;
  18. Is of the opinion that a conflict-fostering zero-sum game perception of international relations in Europe can be overcome by increased dialogue and that the Russian political elite and their actions, not the Russian people, remain the key challenge for constructive cooperation.

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