Worsening relations

Tuesday, 2021-05-04 17:41:55
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NDO – The relationship between Russia and the European Union (EU), which have not been not so good for some time, have continued to “decline” sharply in recent days, in the context of more “tit for tat” moves between the two sides.

In the latest move to increase tensions in the bilateral relations, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Russia had banned entry to eight European officials since early May, including President of the European Parliament, D. Sassoli, and European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency V. Jourova.

This move by Russia is in response to the EU’s banning the entry of six Russian officials in March this year. The statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry also added that all proposals from Moscow to resolve the disagreements between Russia and the EU through direct dialogue were ignored or rejected by the EU side.

Immediately after Russia announced a ban on the entry of eight European officials, President of the European Council C. Michel, EC President U. Leyen and President of the European Parliament D. Sassoli issued a joint statement condemning the Russian decision. The EU representatives expressed "their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU and Russia”, and noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.

Before issuing sanctions on European officials, Moscow also expelled a series of diplomats from EU member states such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland, to retaliate against the EU sanctions. In April, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that 20 employees of the Czech Embassy in Moscow were unwelcome figures and had to leave the country. This was a move in response to Prague's announcement of the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats over suspicions that Russian intelligence services were involved in an ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

In February this year, relations between Russia and the West “soured” when Moscow announced the expulsion of diplomats from Sweden, Germany and Poland on allegations that they participated in illegal protests related to jailed Kremlin critic A. Navalny , calling for his release. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state TV the three EU countries’ actions were “unjustified, unfriendly and a continuation of the same series of actions the West has been taking against our country, which we qualify as interference in our internal affairs”.

In the context of the increasing “tit for tat” conflict between Russia and the EU, the European Parliament recently issued a resolution declaring Russia as no longer a strategic partner of the EU. On the Russian side, Foreign Minister S. Lavrov affirmed with a tough stance that Moscow was prepared to break off relations with the EU if it continued with its planned sanctions.

Analysts say that disagreements in Russian - EU relations over recent years and especially in the past few months are related to geopolitical and influence competition, their relative position in the international arena as well as core interest conflicts between Russia and the EU in particular, and between Russia and the West in general. However, in the globalised world of today, Russia and the EU, as well as other Western countries , have certain ties in terms of politics, security and economics. The parties still need each other to cooperate in solving important issues such as: arms control, nuclear proliferation and the elimination of international terrorism, the fight against climate change and the pandemic response.

The recent rapid increase in sanctions between Russia and the EU is causing many concerns. If the two sides “break off” their bilateral relationship, the process of negotiating and solving a series of traditional and non-traditional security issues in both the region and the world at large is at risk of being delayed.