Speech at the 15th session of the Senate on August 25, 2021 on joint communication to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council on EU-Russia Relations
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen,
The situation in the relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation is complex and has unfortunately deteriorated steadily in recent years. Since last summer, a number of rounds of EU discussions on Russia have taken place. The document before you today is an important part of this discussion process. So let me begin by briefly mentioning some of the events that have affected EU-Russia relations in the past year. First, it is about amending the Constitution of the Russian Federation to allow the incumbent President Vladimir Putin to run again. Among the highlights in the development of European-Russian relations was the crisis in Belarus, in which Russia was largely involved. I would also like to mention the poisoning of opposition activist Alexei Navalny and the imposition of EU sanctions. Tightening of the legislation of the Russian Federation on so-called foreign agents and repressive measures before the parliamentary elections in September.
I would also like to note the humiliating reception of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in Moscow in February. Also, let me mention the spring concentration of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. And, of course, I cannot fail to mention the worsening crisis in Czech-Russian relations, which culminated in the case of Belarus with the ensuing diplomatic spat. Throughout this period, the Czech Republic within the European Union called for a review of relations with the Russian Federation and the adoption of a new strategy that would reflect this development. In this context, and under the guidance of the European Council, this report on EU-Russia relations has been prepared for the upcoming EU debate on Russia.
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The letter frankly describes the reality of recent European-Russian relations, as I briefly summarized. The Czech Republic agrees with the analysis and considers it important that the document does not weaken the so-called 5 principles of 2016, which form the basis of EU policy towards Russia. The three theses in the title of this document, opposition to Russia, to its restriction, but also to cooperation with it, reflect the basic principles promoted by High Representative Borrell in the formation of policy towards Russia, which he advocates, and only mentions that the European Union is Russia’s fifth largest trading partner, European countries are among the largest investors in Russia.
Unfortunately, the document was created without the participation of Member States, and we consider it a lack of the proposed methods, which were supposed to be the main purpose of drafting this document. Unfortunately, the document also does not address the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which may have significant impacts on developments in the Central and Eastern European region in the medium term. However, we consider it important that the document confirms and reaffirms Ukraine’s support for its territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence, the link between sanctions against the Russian Federation and the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. It also supports the Eastern Partnership, which was at the forefront of Czech diplomacy. It calls for better cooperation in addressing Russia’s subversive activities towards the European Union, including cyber and hybrid threats.
The document also notes that there are areas such as health, climate or environment and, of course, trade where medicines with the Russian Federation are in the EU’s interest. The document also notes the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia, which needs to be addressed. The Czech Republic is fully involved in this debate. Although joint communication does not fully meet all expectations attached to it, I consider it an important step forward in the strategic debate on the future of relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Thank you for your attention.
- Minister of Foreign Affairs
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