Human Rights in the debate on EU – Russia Summit

European Parliament discussed today of the outcomes of the 25th EU-Russia Summit 31 May – 1 June at Rostov-on-Don. [:]Attention was also given to the human rights dimension of the cooperation with Russia and hopes were expressed that this would gain more centre stage in the talks. Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Catherine Ashton assured the Members of European Parliament that the EU has full intention to integrate human rights into the talks with Russia. This intention is not least because respect for human rights and the rule of law also enable cooperation to improve in all other policy fields.

However, while the recent positive steps in the human rights field, such as ratification Protocol 14 to the ECHR and moratorium on death penalty, were received with appreciation, grave concerns remain.

Indeed, in the EU-Russia summit President of the European Council, Mr Herman Van Rompuy, had expressed concern over the situation for human rights defenders and journalists in Russia and the climate of impunity, in particular in Chechnya and other areas of the North Caucasus.

Ms Hautala gave her full support to Ms Rompuy’s remarks and noted that while the EU gathered to Rostov-on-Don to discuss with its Russian counterpart people were being arrested in many cities at the Strategy 31 demonstrations, calling for respect to article 31 in the Russian constitution that guarantees its people the freedom of assembly. She also expressed happiness that the EU Council and Commission had raised that tragic case of Magnitsky in their meetings with the Russian officials.

Before the Plenary the Russian Ambassador to EU, Mr Chizhov, took part in a meeting of EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee with the Members of the European Parliament, to discuss the outcomes of the Summit. The Modernisation is a key word in EU-Russia relations and many interventions touched it.  Many held that the modernisation of any state cannot be only technical. This inherently includes reforms of the society and political system. Neither can human rights be left undiscussed. In the meeting Green  MEPs Mr Schultz and Ms Hautala raised the concerns over the continuing obstruction and violent break downs of the peaceful Strategy 31 demonstrations. the Ambassador answered to this only at a general level and said that the discussions could be continued.

The Parliament will adopt a resolution on the conclusions of the EU-Russia summit tomorrow.