Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Russia need not fear the EU’s growing relationship with former Soviet republics

25th March 2009

Kremlin’s accusation that EU is extending its ‘sphere of influence’ is redundant Cold War language

Russia is wrong to feel threatened by the EU’s growing relationship with the six former Soviet republics to its east, Charles Tannock MEP said today in a debate on the conclusions of the recent European Council.

Dr Tannock, Conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, said the impending launch on the 7th May in Prague of the Eastern Partnership – which seeks to boost the EU’s relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – should not be exploited by Russia as a pretext for more interference in its neighbours’ affairs.

Dr Tannock said the Kremlin’s assertion that the Eastern Partnership represented an extension of the EU’s ‘sphere of influence’ was absurd, and that such language belonged to Cold War diplomacy, not modern international relations.

He added that Russia still thinks in terms of its own ‘sphere of influence’ or ‘near abroad’ as it is known in Russian government circles, and that this was obvious from Russia’s war against Georgia last year and Moscow’s intermittent political destabilization of Ukraine and the Baltic states.

He said that the EU's newly conceived Eastern Partnership and its parliamentary assembly EURONEST represented the EU’s determination to help the six former Soviet republics to decide their own destinies and independent foreign policy as sovereign states.

The MEP went on to say that the Eastern Partnership should not be used by some member states as a way of thwarting the EU membership ambitions of countries manifestly entitled to join the Union, such as Ukraine and Moldova.

Dr Tannock made his remarks following the announcement by the Council of the European Union, representing the EU’s 27 member states, to double assistance to the Eastern Partnership countries to Euros 600m with a focus on negotiating deep Free Trade Agreements, Visa facilitated travel, increased security cooperation and the financing of better energy storage and gas transit infrastructure with new pipelines.

He said:

"The suggestion of Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that the eastern partnership is a means for the EU to extend its sphere of influence is absurd.

"Such language belongs to the ‘machtpolitik’ Cold War era, not to modern diplomacy.

"If anyone seeks a sphere of influence it is Russia, as underlined by last summer’s war against Georgia and the Kremlin’s intermittent political destabilization of Ukraine and the Baltic states.

"While I fully accept the right of Turkey and Russia to be observers in EURONEST, neither country should use this position for its own foreign policy ends. The members of EURONEST are sovereign states with the right to determine and advance their own Euroatlantic aspirations.

"The Eastern Partnership must not be used to stall the EU membership ambitions of countries manifestly entitled to apply for such status, namely Ukraine and Moldova."