Delivered in Plenary - 8th June 2011
Russia is an important partner for the EU in many respects. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia exercises a potentially decisive influence on international affairs, from our relations with North Korea to its involvement in the UN quartet. I also welcome recent calls by President Medvedev for the Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi to leave power. I also hope that the Kremlin will align itself with the rest of the international community on stopping Iranian nuclear proliferation.
I also accept that Russia has economic interests in the former Soviet republics, some of which are now – thankfully – gravitating away from Moscow towards the EU. However, the EU should continue to insist that it will support and engage with these now-independent countries such as Ukraine, and make sure that the door is left open to them in terms of Euro-Atlantic aspirations. In this regard I hope that the Vice-President/High Representative will raise the issue of Georgia, parts of whose territory remain annexed and occupied illegally by Russian soldiers, and help also to put pressure on Russia to solve the Transnistria question in Moldova. I also accept that the Commission is now making the suggestion that the EU-Russia summit should be annual rather than every six months, which is a good idea and the way forward.
Russia is not a mature liberal democracy. Neither is it a country which enjoys an independent judiciary. But whether we like it or not, we still have to engage with the bear.