New EU-Russia agreement
Delivered in Plenary - 12th December 2012
Russia is a strategic partner for the EU with vast oil, gas and mineral reserves. As a neighbour it shares a border with the EU and there are large numbers of Russophone people across Europe, including in the London region I represent. We need good political relations on a number of fronts, including cooperation over delicate areas such as relations with North Korea, what is happening in the South Caucasus, and the Middle East Peace Process.
Sadly Russia has so far refused to budge over Syria and is pushing hard to re-establish a post-Soviet sphere of influence which would encompass Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia in a Eurasian Union.
I profoundly regret the deterioration in recent years in Russia on human rights questions, including a climate of increasing impunity and corruption, as we saw over the Magnitsky, Litvinyenko and Khodorkovsky cases, as well as the excessive prison sentence passed down to the members of Pussy Riot and recent proposals for anti-LGBT laws.
Of course we need Russia as a strong WTO trading partner – it is a massive supplier of gas to our markets – and of course we deeply respect its culture and history, but we will not refrain from reminding it of its obligations as a Member of the Council of Europe and of the OSCE in terms of fundamental democratic values and the rule of law.