MEP: Borrell's Moscow visit was 'master class in pandering'

Russian flag outside the embassy in Tallinn.
Russian flag outside the embassy in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The visit by the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Moscow on Friday undermines everything that has been done to call Russia to order, Estonian Member of the European Parliament Riho Terras (Isamaa) said.

Terras said that this is not only because of the recent jailing of leader of the opposition Alexei Navalny but also due to suppression of the people which has seen thousands of citizens arrested and the government ignoring the fundamentals of democracy.

"Judging by the topics under discussion, Borrell finds that there are more important topics in communication with Russia now than Navalny and claims that nobody has demanded new sanctions. This is not true. What Borrell is doing now is reducing Europe's unity and integrity in the eyes of Russia," Terras said.

Terras added that the situation is aggravated by Borrell representing the European Union and its member states.

"He is playing down the importance of what is happening in Russia - Borrell is now demonstrating a master class in pandering to Russia," the former commander of the Estonian defense forces said.

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) and chairman of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee Marko Mihkelson (Reform) were also critical of the meeting.

"It was a total failure in terms of protecting Europe's positions," Reinsalu told Vikerraadio show "Uudis +" on Friday. "This behavior certainly shows that my and the Latvian and Lithuanian foreign ministers' proposal not to go to Moscow was justified."

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all called for additional sanctions to be placed on Russia before the meeting was held on Friday in response to Navalny's 3.5 year prison sentence. Lithuania has said it may even create new sanctions without the European Union doing so, something Estonia was hesitant to agree too.

The countries also called for Borrell to request a meeting with Navalny.

Lithuania's Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Lansbergis summed up the meeting, tweeting: "Nothing gained, opportunities missed, reputation shaken."

On Thursday, Estonia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said unless Navalny is released immediately and peaceful protesters are ensured fair treatment, the European Union should respond resolutely. This would entail imposing sanctions on those responsible for the episodes in question.

"The sanctions introduced so far have been appropriate and efficient and helped prevent the worst in many cases. We will continue to watch these developments closely and we are consulting with our allies and partners to find suitable and impactful solutions," she said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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