European Council is Best Advised to Lift Sanctions on Russia

We are three days away from the next European Council meeting (20-21 October 2016). The migration crisis, trade issues are the first two items on the agenda. Third and last chapter concerns external relations. Singular issue on this last chapter concerns the relations with Russia. There can be no doubt that the normalization of EU – Russia relations is crucial for the future of the European Union. The EU and the Russian Federation are ipso facto strategic partners on the Eurasian geopolitical space.

In a whole raft of policy fields the EU needs cooperation with the Russian Federation as much as the other way round. Energy cooperation is paramount. First, the EU imports around a third of its needs in natural gas from Russia. Second, whether certain policy circles in Washington like it or not, Moscow leads the fight in eradicating the Islamic terrorism threat (ISIS) emanating from the Middle East and seeking to spread westwards. The Russian intervention in Syria has proved effective in stemming the horrible growth of the Daesh menace.

Sanctions against Russia over Ukraine were ill conceived and counter-productive in the first place. As time passes, it becomes increasingly transparent that the current administration in Kiev fails to deliver on its Minsk Agreement deliverables. Smaller EU member states, for example Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary have been hit hard in their trade relations with Russia because of the sanctions imposed at the behest of Washington. Unfortunately, Merkel’s administration in Berlin, the EU’s locomotive, irresponsibly drifts along the US in a futile sanctions policy against EU’s main trade partner, rational neighbour, energy provider and natural ally Russia.

The Cypriot Parliament already in July approved a resolution calling for the lifting of the sanctions the European Union has imposed on the Russian Federation. No single vote was cast against this resolution, an indication of the strong support in favour of full normalization of relations with the RF across the political spectrum. The Cypriot MPs who voted in favour of the resolution noted that the sanctions have not helped towards the resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, but rather they have proved to be counterproductive and ineffective.

The resolution calls on the Government “to work within the framework of the European Council for lifting the sanctions imposed by the European Union against the Russian Federation, pointing to the usefulness of dialogue and the need for peaceful cooperation in all fields”.

At the same time, the House of Representatives urges the Cypriot Government to take initiatives and proceed to actions in order to prepare the ground for lifting the sanctions of the Russian Federation regarding exports of Cyprus products to this country. It also decides to take initiatives in the framework of parliamentary diplomacy aiming at the restoration of relations and cooperation between the EU and the RF in all fields.

The Cyprus Parliament “calls on all parties involved in the Ukrainian crisis to continue the political and diplomatic efforts for its peaceful settlement and to fully implement the Minsk Agreement of 12 February 2015”. It stresses the consequences of the crisis in Ukraine on the broader cooperation and development of relations between all states of the European continent.

The resolution underlines that the House of Representatives is “convinced that the sanctions … have proved counterproductive and in no way have helped to solve the crisis in Ukraine”. It recognises that the sanctions imposed by the European Union against the Russian Federation ‘have had a negative effect on the trade and economic relations’ between Cyprus and Russia. It also considers the sanctions as unacceptable and an obstacle to dialogue on the bilateral and multilateral level.

Thus, President Anastasiades arrives in Brussels on Thursday equipped with a strong mandate from the Cypriot people’s representative body to oppose the renewal of the sanctions regime that only seeks to damage relations with the EU’s natural ally at a time that cooperation with Russia is an absolute need in order to defeat the Islamist extremist threat that is engulfing the European continent.