EU’s foreign policy chief on Wednesday gave recommendations on guiding the bloc’s relations with Russia.
“Russia is the EU’s largest neighbor,” Josep Borrell noted at a news conference presenting the guidelines, adding that the bloc has to cooperate on a range of issues with Moscow.
He said, however, the “deliberate policy choices of the Russian government over the last years have created a negative spiral in our relations.”
Therefore, Borrell suggested that EU leaders base their policy on three key principles, namely “push back, constraints and engaging Russia.”
The document was prepared for the upcoming summit of EU leaders, who are expected to decide on the bloc’s foreign policy approach toward Russia.
According to Borrell, the bloc should continue to push back on human rights violations and to remind Russia of its international obligations, as well as reply to Russia’s hybrid threats in an appropriate manner.
In order to constrain Russia’s actions undermining EU interests, the bloc should also become more united, robust and resilient.
For this purpose, Borrell suggests strengthening EU cyber defense and security capacities and to boost coordination with NATO and non-EU members of the G7 group, representing the biggest economies of the world.
At the same time, the document proposes cooperation with Russia on strategically important topics, such as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change or international terrorism, as well as diplomatic efforts on Middle East conflicts.
The EU-Russia relations have deteriorated significantly over the past years.
Since 2014, the bloc has been applying restrictive measures including asset freeze and travel restrictions in response to the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the port of Sevastopol, and Moscow’s reluctance to fully implement the Minsk agreement meant to establish a cease-fire in Eastern Ukraine.
The European Union imposed sanctions on four Russian high-ranking officials over opposition figure Aleksey Navalny’s arbitrary arrest, prosecution, and sentencing under its Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime in March.
In a separate decision, the bloc also blacklisted two Russian officials serving in Chechnya region for human rights violations of gay people.
Last week, the bloc also condemned a Moscow court decision banning political organizations linked to Navalny, calling it “the most serious effort to date by the Russian Government to suppress the independent political opposition and anti-corruption investigations, and to eliminate Mr Navalny’s political networks.”