15/06/2011 EU/Russia: Will Parliament’s voice be heard at Nijni-Novgorod?

At the plenary session, MEPs wanted to send a message to participants of the EU-Russia summit which had started the previous day in Nijni-Novgorod. The official agenda included Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Arab revolutions, liberalisation of the visa regime and energy. MEPs, however, did not want the issue of human rights to be forgotten.

M. Van Rompuy, M. Medvedev, and M. Barroso

Following on from the Arab revolutions, respect for human rights has once again become a key value in European diplomacy. The new European Neighbourhood Policy proposed by the Commission is the first example of this.

This issue was thus put on the agenda for the plenary session while at the same moment the European delegation (headed up by EU President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso) met the Russian delegation 400km outside of Moscow.

A traditional meeting

Kremlin advisor, Sergei Prikhodko said, “It is a traditional agenda. During the working meeting, we will look at the global economy and global management as well as cooperation between Russia and the European Union. During lunch, we will focus on several international issues, the main ones being the situation in North Africa and the Middle East as well as Iranian nuclear power.”

For politicians, this meeting is primarily about further examination of the questions raised during the last summit in Brussels on December 7th, 2010. The French Ministry for Foreign Affairs has thus labelled this meeting a ‘transition summit’. As such, no surprises are expected.

Putting human rights on the agenda

This is not however the viewpoint of MEPs. In a common message addressed to governments, they call for guarantees on human rights to be included in any agreements made. It is primarily the political situation that is a cause for concern in light of the Duma elections that were held in December 2011. There are many questions that MEPs would like to see raised such as the legal proceedings taken against Michail Khordorkovsky, the death of Sergei Magnitsky, political interference and harassment of opposition parties.

MEPs also criticised the absence of media freedom, the ban on gay pride parades and the illegal military occupation of Georgian territories. In particularly, they want Russia to stop issuing passports to citizens in the occupied provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Finally, the nuclear issue was also the focus of attention as MEPs called for “stringent stress tests for nuclear power stations in order to avoid crisis situations developing as has happened in Fukushima.” An amendment proposed by the Green/EFA group has however been rejected that called for the immediate closure of “the Chernobyl-type nuclear stations that are still in service.”

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