Visit of the delegation of Party A JUST RUSSIA to the European Parliament
On July 01, the delegation of Party A JUST RUSSIA started its visit to the EU Parliament (Brussels) upon invitation of the leadership of faction "European United Left/Nordic Green Left" (GUE/NGL).
The delegation included Alexander Romanovich, a member of the Central Council Presidium, deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs; Tatiana Moskalkova, a member of the Central Council Presidium, deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and Liaison with Compatriots, and Boris Guseletov, adviser of the Party Chairman in the field of international issues.
The first day of the visit started with a working breakfast participated by the EU Parliament deputies of the GUEL/NGL faction Irzhi Mashtalka (the Communist Party of Czechia and Moravia), Helmut Scholz and Karin Schuttpeltz (the Left Party of Germany, a representative of the faction apparatus). It is especially interesting to note that each EU Parliament representative spoke fluent Russian. Alexander Romanovich outlined the Russian stand on the key issues of foreign policy (including the Ukrainian crisis) for the European colleagues. Tatiana Moskalkova focused their attention on the situation around Crimea, and emphasized the fact that Ukraine had practically invested nothing in maintenance and development of the peninsula’s infrastructure since the dissolution of the USSR. According to Helmut Scholz, the GUEL/NGL faction has constantly been against the policy of putting pressure on Russia with sanctions and threats. He stated that the situation around the Ukrainian crisis is extremely complicated and may be resolved only on the basis of a dialogue between all the parties concerned and by searching for a compromise.
Then the Russian delegation was received by Othmar Karas (Austria), a representative of the European People’s Party (EPP) faction who is also the leader of the Committee on Parliamentary Cooperation between the State Duma and the EU Parliament. The EPP representative took a radical stance during the dialogue and accused Russia of "the international law violation" and illegal imposing of sanctions against the European parliamentarians in connection with the Ukrainian crisis. Alexander Romanovich brought to the parliamentarian’s notice the position of the Russian authorities and Party A JUST RUSSIA who stick to the opinion that Russia has not violated the international law, as for the counter sanctions, they were imposed in response to the sanctions against the Russian parliamentarians. He called Othmar Karas to do his utmost for lifting the sanctions because (according to the Russian parliamentarian) the war of sanctions against parliamentarians does not contribute to the solution of the conflict, but quite on the contrary, it complicates searching of the ways for its solution.
On the same day, the Russian delegation had a meeting with Tatiana Zhdanok (the Russian Union of Latvia), one of the representatives of "The Greens/European Free Alliance" in the European Parliament who spoke out with sharp criticism on the recent EU Parliament’s resolution that condemns Russia. Ms. Zhdanok informed the Russian colleagues about the manifestation arranged by the Russian Union of Latvia in front of the EU Parliament on July 02 with the demand to conduct an objective investigation of the tragedy in Odessa last year so that to reveal the persons guilty of the deaths of peaceful civilians. The EU Parliament member also stressed that Russia must be more active when working with its compatriots living abroad.
During the second part of the day of its visit to Brussels, the delegation of Party A JUST RUSSIA had a meeting with Fabio Massimo Castaldo (the Five Star Movement, Italy), a representative of faction "Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy" (EFDD). The Italian parliamentarian said that he was one of the few members of the EP Committee for Foreign Affairs who stands for improvement of cooperation with Russia. In this connection, he noted with regret that the Committee members representing the Baltic countries and Poland, right on the contrary, stand for confrontation with Russia. He declared that his Movement stands against NATO expansion eastwards and intensification of the arms race. He was totally against the Ukrainian membership in NATO, in perspective. He expressed an interesting viewpoint that at present the European Parliament has become the third chamber of the American Congress. Moreover, when he expressed this point of view at a plenary meeting of the European Parliament, none of the deputies raised any objection against him. He also declared that in his opinion, the policy of sanctions against Russia is absolutely counterproductive, and he repeatedly expressed this opinion to his compatriot Federica Mogerini, the EU representative on the EU common foreign policy and the policy of security.
After that the A JUST RUSSIA delegation had a meeting with Gabriele Zimmer, the leader of the EUL/NGL parliamentary faction who noted that the group included representatives of 20 European parties. According to Ms. Zimmer, the policy of sanctions and confrontation is the most counterproductive. Gabriele Zimmer expressed her point of view on the situation in Ukraine saying that there was nothing but replacement of one group of oligarchs by another. She also said that now the main thing is to prevent fresh supply of arms to the zone of conflict so that to avoid new victims among the civilian population.
Alexander Romanovich thanked Gabriele Zimmer for her invitation to the Russian delegation to visit the European Parliament and convey the Russian deputies’ viewpoint to the representatives of various parliamentary groups. He also (in his turn) invited the EUL/NGL representatives to visit Russia in autumn this year.
At the conclusion of the first day of its visit, the A JUST RUSSIA delegation met with Tamás Meszerics (party "Politics can Be Different", Hungary), a representative of faction the Greens/European Free Alliance and Iliana Iotova (the Bulgarian Socialist Party). The Russian and Bulgarian parliamentarians discussed the prospects of cooperation between Russia and The European Union. The Euro Parliament deputies expressed themselves in favor of strengthening the dialogue between the European Parliament and the State Duma in the interests of the peoples of Russia and united Europe. It was the end of the first day of the Russian delegation visit.
On the closing day of its two-day visit, the JR delegation had a meeting with Knut Fleckenstein, deputy head of faction the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (PASD) in the European Parliament who raised concerns about a considerable weakening of cooperation between Russia and the European Union for the last year. He said he had had a meeting with his party-mate Martin Schulz, the Chairman of the European Parliament, shortly before his meeting with the Russian parliamentarians and proposed him for consideration several variants of strengthening the cooperation with Russia.
Alexander Romanovich, on his part, thanked his German colleague for an opportunity to have a meeting with him to discuss common problems and noted that he estimated the current state of the parliamentary dialogue between Russia and the European Union as an extremely unfavorable. He declared openly that he was treating the current situation as "combat activity", especially after Sergei Naryshkin, the Chairman of the State Duma had been denied the opportunity to participate in the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly (PA) of OSCE in Helsinki. The Russian parliamentarian reminded his German colleague that the confrontation between the European states in the XXth century twice led to the world wars which resulted in multimillion human losses. He confirmed that the Russian side is totally against sharpening the relations between Russia and its European partners and welcomes only a peaceful resolution of any contradictions but at the same time, Russia does not understand the reason for the Europeans’ aggressive actions of this kind who have been pushing the sides involved closer to some "red line".
In his reply, the German parliamentarian said that under the present circumstances, a strict observation of the Minsk Agreements by each side is the only way to prevent further escalation of the conflict. He stressed that unfortunately, there are people in all the countries involved in the conflict one way or another (Ukraine, Russia, Europe, the USA) who are economically interested in its continuation.
He also said that at present, the problem is not who is right or who is wrong, the main thing is to prevent transformation of the Ukrainian conflict into a military phase. The task of the parliamentarians of Russia and the European Parliament is to help representatives of the executive power and the diplomatic corps to avoid such a scenario of the development of events. He informed his Russian colleague about the conference devoted to the fortieth anniversary of signing the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (also known as the Helsinki Final Act) to be held in November, and expressed his hope that the Russian, American and European politicians would participate in it for a joint discussion of the possible ways out of the current situation.
In conclusion of the meeting, Knut Fleckenstein declared directly that in his opinion, availability of the so-called stop-lists in relation to the Russian and European parliamentarians is a mere stupidity and promised that in two weeks, his faction would submit their considerations about the solution of this problem that would make possible unblocking of the channels of cooperation between the State Duma and the European Parliament.
After that, the Russian delegation went to the meeting with Liisa Yaakonsaari, another representative of SDPF (the Socialist Democratic Party of Finland) who is also Vice Chairperson (the European side) of the EP – SD (European Parliament State Duma) Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (PCC). She noted with regret that work of the PCC turned out to be practically paralyzed due to the policy of sanctions and asked her Russian colleague to express his thoughts about the way the problem might be solved. Alexander Romanovich said that at present, the task of top priority is to get the sanctions against the parliamentarians lifted. He also offered to pay more attention to development of the so-called people’s democracy, i.e. strengthening of relations between the twin-cities in Russia and Europe, extend contacts between public organizations etc. Talking about it, the Russian deputy stressed that such actions of the Finnish authorities as ban on the visit of the State Duma Chairman to Helsinki for participation in PA of OSCE are sure not to contribute to improvement of our relations.
Another member of the Russian delegation Boris Guseletov noted that Martin Schultz, the then leader of the group of socialists and Nikolai Levichev, who was the leader of the State Duma faction of party A JUST RUSSIA at that time, signed (for the first time ever) the Memorandum of Understanding eight years ago. Both factions had actively been cooperating within the framework of the Memorandum signed in the walls of the European Parliament till the Ukrainian conflict broke out. Mr. Guseletov offered the Finnish parliamentarian to discuss with the leaders of his faction possibility of return to this cooperation.
In conclusion of the meeting, Liisa Yaakonsaari stated that Russia and the EU have a lot of common interests but neither of them can solve alone such important problems as environmental protection, fight against terrorism and uncontrolled migration. Therefore, there is no other alternative to strengthening and expansion of cooperation.
The Russian delegation had its final meeting (within the framework of the visit to the European Parliament) with Tician Begin (the Five Star Movement, Italy) who is not only a representative of faction "Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy" but also the head of the working group on the rules of procedure and finances in the European Parliament. She said that she represents a rather young political force of Italy which appeared only 10 years ago, but now it is the second authoritative political organization in the country. She has never been a professional politician before. Tician Begin was in small and middle entrepreneurship earlier. She declared that their movement was totally against the policy of sanctions against Russia as such policy provides an extremely negative impact on the Italian economy. She also said that she was unalterably opposed to the idea of conclusion of the agreement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TRIP) between the USA and the EU because it is not in conformity with the interests of ordinary citizens of the European Union. She gave a critical assessment of the US foreign policy aimed at protection of the country’s own interests to the detriment of the interests of other countries.
Alexander Romanovich thanked his Italian colleague for direct and open talk, and invited her to visit the State Duma in autumn to continue the dialogue and to strengthen relations between the political organizations both politicians represent. Boris Guseletov proposed to arrange a roundtable devoted to the TRIP problem (in case Tician Begin comes to Moscow), with participation of Russian and foreign experts. The proposal was accepted with gratitude.
During the second part of the day, the delegation of party A JUST RUSSIA had a meeting with Vladimir Chizhov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU and the European Atomic Energy Community. In the course of their talk, Alexander Romanovich told the Russian diplomat about the results of the party delegation visit and stressed that the majority of the Euro Parliament deputies had demonstrated a rather positive attitude to Russia during the meetings and non acceptance of the policy of sanctions, especially against the parliamentarians. The Head of the Russian Mission to the EU thanked the delegation of party A JUST RUSSIA for their active work with the European parliamentarians and promised (on his part) to make efforts for implementation of the agreements on lifting the sanctions against the deputies of the parliaments of Russia and the EU.
At that, the visit of the delegation of party A JUST RUSSIA to Brussels was finished .