Russia and the EU
Delivered in Plenary - 29th November 2006
Russia, in its four common spaces engaging with the EU, remains our strategic partner. We need a strong, united and stable Russia as an ally against rising Islamist terrorism, working with us through the Quartet in solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, preventing in the UN Security Council Iranian and North Korean nuclear proliferation, as well as being a reliable trading partner in its supply of 30% of the EU’s gas needs.
Nevertheless, we take a dim view of the atrocities in Chechnya, the deterioration in human rights and democratic freedoms – in particular press freedom, and contract killings of journalists and opponents of the Government, such as my constituent from London, Alexander Litvinenko.
We also reject the traditional Russian habit of cosying up bilaterally to big Member States such as Britain, France and Germany, in order to pressurise others such as the Baltic States and, most recently, Poland, by banning its beef exports. Russia all too frequently invokes phytosanitary regulations to bully troublesome ‘near-abroad neighbours’ such as Moldova and Georgia, where wine and mineral waters were banned.
Otherwise, Russia uses differential gas pricing by Gazprom as a foreign policy instrument to put pressure on neighbours such as Ukraine. Recently, NATO released a report suggesting that Russia is planning a ‘gas OPEC’ with Algeria, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which would be a serious threat to the EU’s external energy security interests. One way of responding to this, particularly after Russia’s refusal to sign the Energy Charter Treaty, is to tell President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, on his visit to Brussels next week, that his country, like its ethnic cousin Azerbaijan, would be welcome in the European Neighbourhood Policy, rather than Kazakhstan joining Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in the Yalta Treaty’s Single Economic Space.