KIEV, Sept. 12 – Russia must respect the right of the European Union’s eastern neighbors to choose whether to enter into association agreements with the EU, according to resolution approved by the European Parliament Thursday.
The resolution also calls on the EU to take responsibility for defending the Eastern Partnership countries that have been exposed to Russia’s “open, alarming and escalating” pressures, the resolution said.
European lawmakers called on the European Commission and the Council to come forward with "concrete and effective measures" to support the partner countries in their European aspirations and choices.
The developments come weeks after Russia exerted pressure on Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia, trying to dissuade them from signing or initialing deals with the EU at upcoming summit in November.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said recently that Ukraine will not drop its plans to sign free trade and political association agreements with the European Union at the summit in Vilnius despite Russia’s threats to impose trade restrictions.
Azarov’s talks with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, failed to produce any results, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov later said it was “pointless” to continue the talks.
The worries over the possible trade war between Ukraine and Russia rose after Russian President Vladimir Putin said recently that Russia will resort to sweeping restrictions against Ukrainian goods if Kiev signs a free trade and political association agreements with the European Union.
The protectionist rhetoric came only days after Russia had lifted its heavy restrictions imposed against Ukrainian goods last month.
The restrictions, which amounted to a de-facto blockade of the Ukrainian goods at the border, were politically motivated to prevent Ukraine from signing the agreements with the EU in November, Ukrainian politicians said.
Members of European Parliament called on Russia to respect the independent states' sovereignty and not to intervene in their internal affairs, as required by international law. Eastern Partnership countries have a right to "build relations with partners of their choice", according to the resolution.
The resolution firmly rejects the idea that the EU's and Russia's relations with Eastern Partnership countries can be treated as a "zero-sum game". Instead of using the region's frozen conflicts in its geopolitical and economic interests, Russia should cooperate and contribute constructively to the region's economic and political stability, according to the resolution. (tl/ez)