EU-Russia relations: Breaking bad…

Strasbourg, 21 May 2016 – Executive Director of the Ukrainian Think Tanks Liaison Office in Brussels Olena Prystayko participated in the second edition of the European Youth Event (#EYE2016), which took place in the European Parliament on 20-21 May.

Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Advisor to the President of the European Parliament

Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Advisor to the President of the European Parliament

The panel “EU-Russia relations: Breaking Bad or Keeping the Door Open for Peace” primarily focused on Ukraine crisis and how the EU should proceed with its foreign policy towards Russia. Should the EU prolong the sanctions against Russia after they expire in July 2016? Has the EU learnt its lessons from Russia-Ukraine conflict? Is there any hope for transformation and change in the heart of Moscow? How do civil societies in Russia and Ukraine feel?

The situation in Ukraine remains dire and dangerous. During the last two years since the war in Eastern Ukraine started, over 9, 000 people have been killed in the Donbas and around two million people have been internally displaced. Adviser to the President of the European Parliament Arnoldas Pranckevičius says:

Ukraine is still one of the most important issues in the EU foreign policy and one of the biggest security challenges on the continent.

Young participants in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, 21 May 2016

Ukraine is torn not only by the war in the East, but economic recession, political crisis, corruption, and oligarchy. Olena Prystayko gave a retrospective outline of the transition process in Ukraine. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991 the country has had a hybrid regime combining the features of both democratic and authoritarian states:

The transition in Ukraine has always been a battle between a democracy and an authoritarianism, between the future and the past.
Andrejs Mamikins, Member of the European Parliament

Andrejs Mamikins, Member of the European Parliament

Ukraine’s strong and mature civil society and youth are extremely important in the process of change, she says.

Kirill Koroteev, Russian lawyer of Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow), said that civil society in Russia had been facing challenges in promoting democracy, human rights and rule of law. He says:

In order for other countries to take the EU values seriously, the EU has to stand by them.

In the discussion about how the EU should proceed with its foreign policy towards Russia the Latvian journalist and a Member of the European Parliament Andrejs Mamikins has called for unconditional dialogue and cooperation between the EU and Russia. He said that the targeted sanctions against Russia were not working and unnecessary since they affected the lives and economies of other countries.

On the contrary the Lithuanian policy analysis Linas Kojala said that precisely the sanctions against Russia had demonstrated the unity of the European Union and their commitment to its values. Russia has threatened the core principles of the EU – peace, democracy, and territorial integrity among others. The EU, in its turn, unanimously decided to pay, but defend those principles:

The EU should show that economic pragmatism on their priority list is below the values that united the 28 countries.

Photo credit: European Parliament