Mogherini: Rus­sia is no longer the EU’s strate­gic part­ner

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Fed­er­ica Mogherini, the Ital­ian for­eign min­is­ter des­ig­nated as the next EU for­eign af­fairs chief, said in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on Tues­day that Rus­sia was no longer the EU’s “strate­gic part­ner”, re­fer­ring to the phrase which de­scribes the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Union and its largest neigh­bour in hun­dreds of of­fi­cial doc­u­ments.

Mogherini spoke in the Par­lia­ment’s For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tee as for­eign min­is­ter of the coun­try hold­ing the ro­tat­ing EU pres­i­dency, but ob­vi­ously many MEPs sought to test her skills for han­dling the cri­sis in her fu­ture ca­pac­ity, the EU news and pol­icy site EurAc­tiv re­ported.

In all, 27 MEPs asked Mogherini ques­tions. Some from the Baltic states tried to chal­lenge her abil­ity to deal with the Ukraine cri­sis, but she suc­cess­fully slith­ered through the de­bate, re­spond­ing in flu­ent English and French. EurAc­tiv heard com­ments that Mogherini was “def­i­nitely bet­ter than [Cather­ine] Ash­ton”, the cur­rent EU for­eign af­fairs chief.

Mogherini re­futed views that she had lit­tle in­ter­est in the Ukraine sit­u­a­tion, stat­ing that as a min­is­ter, her first visit, un­der the new Ital­ian Pres­i­dent, was to Kiev, also say­ing that she has been hold­ing weekly calls with her Ukrainian coun­ter­part Pavlo Klimkin, who she called her good friend.

Asked if she would make changes to the Ital­ian Pres­i­dency pro­gramme, in which the word Ukraine ap­pears only once in a sen­tence say­ing that EU at­ten­tion would be “chiefly de­voted to support of the nor­mal­i­sa­tion process and in­ter­nal sta­bil­ity”, Mogherini said this was not a prob­lem.

“If there is one sen­tence that I would change in the [Ital­ian Pres­i­dency] pro­gramme, it is the first one in the chap­ter re­lat­ing to Rus­sia […] that says Rus­sia re­mains a strate­gic part­ner in tack­ling re­gional and global is­sues. I would change this”, she said.

“I think Rus­sia stays a strate­gic player in the re­gional and global chal­lenges, [re­gard­less if] we like it or not, but I don’t think it’s a strate­gic part­ner any­more”, Mogherini said.

Then she added: “I wish it could go back in the fu­ture, I wish Rus­sia would choose to go back to be a strate­gic part­ner in the fu­ture, but I don’t think this is what is hap­pen­ing now”.

TRICKY QUES­TIONS ON SOUTH STREAM

Mogherini was asked tricky ques­tions by Bul­gar­ian MEP An­drei Ko­vachev (EPP), who tried to test her po­si­tions re­gard­ing the con­tro­ver­sial Gazprom-spon­sored South Stream gas pipe­line. Italy, as a ma­jor des­ti­na­tion of the gas to be trans­ported by the planned pipe­line, is a strong sup­porter of the project.

Mogherini kept her an­swer brief, but clearly in­di­cated that she was not ad­vo­cat­ing the Ital­ian in­ter­est.

She said the Union strongly sup­ported the South­ern gas cor­ri­dor, a jar­gon term re­fer­ring to the TANAP-TAP project to bring Az­eri gas to Italy through the ter­ri­to­ries of the same coun­tries.

The Trans-Ana­to­lian gas pipe­line (TANAP) is a pro­posed nat­u­ral gas pipe­line from Azer­bai­jan run­ning through Turkey. The ap­prox­i­mately 870km TAP pipe­line con­nects with TANAP, and will cross Greece and Al­ba­nia be­fore reach­ing Italy through an off­shore sec­tion.

Re­gard­ing South Stream, which many pun­dits see as a di­rect com­peti­tor to the South­ern gas cor­ri­dor, Mogherini said the project “was thought in another era” and “could con­trib­ute” to di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of routes, pro­vided that not only tech­ni­cal con­di­tions, but also po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions were met.

South Stream is frozen un­til the Com­mis­sion and Gazprom sort out a le­gal mess with the bi­lat­eral agree­ments with tran­sit coun­tries, which con­tain scores of breaches to EU law.

But Mogherini didn’t an­swer another ques­tion by Ko­vachev, re­gard­ing Ukraine’s am­bi­tions to join NATO. Ukrainian Prime Min­is­ter Arseny Yat­senyuk said on 29 Au­gust 29 that his gov­ern­ment will in­tro­duce a pro­posal in Par­lia­ment to change the non­aligned sta­tus of the coun­try, and to re­quest mem­ber­ship of the At­lantic al­liance. A NATO sum­mit in Cardiff on Thurs­day and Fri­day is ex­pected to re­turn to the mat­ter.

NEW SANC­TIONS ON FRI­DAY

An­swer­ing a ques­tion on the new sanc­tions the EU is ex­pected to adopt against Rus­sia fol­low­ing the Au­gust 30-31 sum­mit, Mogherini said that those will not be of the cat­e­gory of “stage three”, but would ex­pand the range of cur­rent fi­nan­cial sanc­tions tar­get­ing of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for Rus­sian mil­i­tary ac­tions in Ukraine, re­stric­tions on arms and dual-use ma­te­ri­als, and tech­nol­ogy. In diplo­matic jar­gon, “third level” sanc­tions re­fer to eco­nomic sanc­tions that are in­tended to hit Rus­sia’s ma­jor eco­nomic play­ers.

Those how­ever would have neg­a­tive con­se­quences for EU busi­nesses. Re­port­edly at least three EU mem­bers - Slo­vakia, Hun­gary and Cyprus - op­pose the third level of sanc­tions.

The decision on the new sanc­tions will be adopted on Septem­ber 5, Mogherini said.

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