Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Russia warned over human rights abuses

The EU's Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, has said the EU is observing political developments in Russia "with increasing concern".

Speaking during a debate on 12 December 2012 on the current state of negotiations on a EU-Russia partnership agreement, she said there were increasing limits on the role of civil society, and concerns over human rights abuses.

Negotiations on a new agreement were launched in 2008 and are due to provide an overall framework for all EU-Russia relations including trade, energy, economic co-operation and research.

The current agreement came into force in 1997 and officially lapsed in 2007, although it has been renewed on an annual basis since then until a new agreement is reached.

Mrs Malmström added that there were "diverging views" on trade and investment rules between the EU and Russia.

She voiced concerns that Russia was now insisting that the EU deal with Russia alongside an ex-Soviet customs union that includes Kazakhstan and Belarus.

"The EU is not prepared to step into any legal agreement with a customs union that has two members who are not even members of the World Trade Organisation."

The European Parliament's negotiator on the agreement, Austrian socialist MEP Hannes Swoboda, warned that more needed to be done to publicly scrutinise Russia's human rights situation.

"Any partnership must be an honest one, not a dishonest one," he concluded.

A report by the Foreign Affairs Committee on the current state of the negotiations says that both sides need to follow "universal democratic principles" as a basis for talks.

The country's judicial system has been criticised by MEPs and EU governments for jailing members of political punk group Pussy Riot earlier this year.

Russia is the EU's third largest trading partner and is a major exporter of oil and gas to the EU. It provides 25% of Europe's gas imports and many European countries rely almost entirely on Russia for their energy needs.

The report was approved during the daily voting session on 13 December 2012.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.


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