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No more ‘business as usual,’ Russia not a strategic partner, European Parliament declares

European Union flags. (Thijs ter Haar/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly voted to approve a report stating that Russia “can no longer be considered a ‘strategic partner’” and that “the EU cannot envisage a gradual return to ‘business as usual’ until Russia fully implements the [2015] Minsk Agreement [which lays out a process for achieving peace in eastern Ukraine] and restores the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

The report — titled On The State Of EU-Russia Political Relations — is nonbinding but represents the European Parliament’s position on relations with Moscow.

The document says European lawmakers are “deeply concerned about the links between the Russian government and the extreme right and populist nationalist parties and governments in the EU, such as in Hungary” and calls for an “EU-wide mechanism allowing the screening of political parties’ funding,” and measures to be taken “to avoid some parties and movements being used to destabilize the European project from within.”

The report also voices concern “over the potentially hundreds of billions of euros being laundered through the EU every year by Russian companies and individuals looking to legitimize the proceeds of corruption” and calls on EU member states to end “golden-visa/passport” programs.

Watchdogs have warned that so-called golden-visa programs run by some European Union countries to sell visas and citizenship to wealthy foreigners are vulnerable to abuse and corruption.

The report says the EU should adopt a European Magnitsky Act similar to the Magnitsky Act — U.S. legislation adopted by the United States in 2012 and meant to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.

The bill, which has applied globally since 2016, authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those who it sees as human rights offenders, freezing their assets and banning them from entering the United States.

EU lawmakers also underlined that the under-construction Nord Stream 2 pipeline project to carry gas from Russia to Germany underneath the Baltic Sea “reinforces EU dependency on Russian gas supplies, threatens the EU internal market, and is not in line with EU energy policy or its strategic interests, and therefore needs to be stopped.”

The text furthermore “reiterates that Russia has no right of veto over the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of European nations” and “calls on the Russian authorities to condemn communism and the Soviet regime, and to punish the perpetrators of the crimes and offenses committed under that regime.”

A group of mainly social democratic, liberal, and green lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to pass an amendment to the report stating that the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee should be resumed after it was suspended due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The amendment, which failed narrowly, stated that “a dialogue [with Russia] is an important tool in minimizing the risk of further misunderstandings and misconceptions between the sides.”