Urmas Paet wrote that rejecting the EU-Russia summit should not encourage member states to engage in bilateral transactions with Russia.
Urmas Paet is an Estonian member of the European Parliament (Renew Europe) and the Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (AFET).
The leaders of EU member states have agreed not to hold the EU-Russia summit for the time being. In view of the tense relations between Europe and Russia, this is the right decision. However, the rejection of the summit should not encourage individual member states to start bilateral dialogues with Russia.
On the contrary, the EU must maintain a unified position.
At the European Council meeting, EU leaders reiterated their commitment to the five guiding principles agreed upon after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Russia must fully assume its responsibilities to ensure that the Minsk Agreement is fully implemented. This is a key condition for substantive progress in EU-Russian relations.
One of the five guiding principles is to selectively engage with Russia. Future European Council meetings will explore the form and conditions of such dialogue.
The leaders of the European Union also recognized the aspirations of the Eastern Partnership countries. This is important and should be done more often.
Summarizing the meeting of the European Council, it can be said that the proposal of France and Germany to resume the form of the European-Russian summit was discussed in depth. This should be.
However, in the current state of EU-Russian relations, the summit will not bring added value.
The tension between the EU and Russia is caused by Russia’s violation of international law and human rights. Obviously, Russia already knows the EU’s position that we cannot and will not tolerate such violations, whether it is against Ukraine, Georgia or Russian opposition leaders.
Although the format of the EU-Russia summit has been frozen for many years, this has not prevented individual member states from holding bilateral talks with Russia.
However, since the EU’s goal is to have a common and unified policy, such bilateral meetings are counterproductive, because these member states do not represent the EU’s common position. It is vital that the EU maintains unity in its position on Russia.
In addition, we should not ignore the deepening relationship between the two authoritarian powers, Russia and China, because this also affects Europe.
The EU must remain critical of its future plans to organize a summit with Russia. After all, timing is everything. For example, the recent visit to Russia by High Representative Josep Borel apparently took place at a terrible time.
In short, the position of the European Council will not encourage individual member states to organize bilateral meetings with Russia, which is crucial, especially when the timing of the next EU-Russia summit is unclear.