Embargo: 00:01 Thursday 22 May 2008
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


The House of Lords European Union Committee have today called on the EU to continue to build on its relationship with Russia and to pursue a policy of engagement at all levels and across all policy areas.

In its report - The EU and Russia - the Committee raises concerns about the Russia's slide away from democracy and examines the implications of the recent election of President Dmitri Medvedev.

The report calls on the EU to continue to engage with Russia on a broad range of issues and to base its relations with Russia on a long term perspective. The Committee concludes that all indications are that President Medvedev's presidency will be characterised by a high degree of continuity with the policies of President Putin. The Committee supports President Medvedev's stated aim to strengthen the rule of law in Russia but warns that it remains to be seen what concrete steps he will take to achieve this.

The Committee states that "serious questions remain about the commitment of the Russian authorities to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, especially in politically sensitive cases". The Committee concludes that if Russia falls short of the standards it has accepted under the Council of Europe and OSCE in the area of democracy and human rights, criticism by the EU may at times be necessary.

The Committee assert that the attitude of ordinary Russians to western-style liberal democracy can largely be attributed to the shattered illusions and humiliating economic situation of the 1990s. They point out that many Russians blame this period of extreme hardship on what they see as failed western-style economic and political reforms which some now consider as ill-suited to Russia.

The Committee consider the EU's position on current disputes between the UK and Russia, including Russia's refusal to extradite Andrei Luguvoi to stand trial in the UK for the alleged murder of Alexander Litvinenko and the attacks on the British Council. The Committee praise the EU for showing solidarity with the UK in calling for his extradition.

The Committee argue that attacks on the British Council and its staff are part of a wider political strategy by Russia to pressurise the UK and the EU into giving way on other unrelated issues. The Committee condemn Russia's approach as 'unacceptable' and point out that it violates several bilateral and multilateral agreements that Russia has ratified. They call on the EU to continue to support British efforts to find an early solution on the status of the British Council.

A crucial element in the EU-Russia relationship is energy, in particular gas. The report looks at the extent of Europe's dependence on energy from Russia and recommends ways in which the EU could increase the security of its gas supplies by diversifying sources and means of transport and creating an improved internal market and interconnecting grid.

The report covers foreign policy issues, in particular those relating to current crisis hotspots such as Georgia and the Ukraine, where both the EU and Russia have geopolitical interests, as well as cooperation on the Iranian nuclear issue and the strong disagreements over Kosovo.

Overall the Committee concludes that the EU should formulate a united strategy in the pursuit of engagement with Russia at all levels and in all policy areas using a hard-headed and unsentimental approach. This should take into account Russia's increasingly confident and assertive behaviour on the world stage.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • The EU should consult in depth with Russia over all aspects of European policy towards the EU and Russia's "common neighbourhood", including with regards to former Soviet countries such as Ukraine and Georgia. However, the EU should not give Russia a right of veto over EU policy decisions.
  • The EU should listen more carefully to what the Russians say, but this does not mean that the EU should not challenge Russian policies and actions if it thinks it necessary.
  • The EU should continue to support Russian economic reforms including those to improve the climate for foreign investment and to move the Russian economy away from its current reliance on the energy and raw material sectors.
  • The EU should promote the widest possible engagement of Russia in international and multilateral institutions; it should resist any attempt to remove Russia from the G8; it should call for the early entry of Russia into the WTO.
  • The EU should open negotiations with Russia on a new legally binding agreement to replace the current Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), in force since 1997.

Commenting Lord Roper, Chairman of the Lords EU Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy, said:

"The relationship between Russia and the EU is currently undergoing significant changes. Russia is increasingly confident and economically powerful and the forms of diplomacy and negotiations that have been in place since the fall of the Soviet Union are clearly now outdated.

"It is important that while the EU's relationship with Russia will change the EU states should maintain pressure on Russia to more fully embrace democracy and implement a more effective rule of law.

"The controversy around the extradition of Andrei Luguvoi and the scandalous treatment of the British Council shows that it is important that the EU stands shoulder to shoulder with member states when they come into conflict with Russia on international issues.

"The EU must do everything it can to continue to engage with Russia but must always do that in the context of its guiding principles of democracy and the acceptance of international law."

Notes to Editors

  1. The report The European Union and Russia is available from The Stationery Office, House of Lords European Union Committee 14 Report of 2007/08, HL Paper 98.
  2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at:
  3. The Members of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy who conducted this inquiry are:

Lord Roper (Chairman)

Lord Jones (From Nov 2007)

Lord Anderson of Swansea

Lord Lea of Crondall (until Nov 2007)

Lord Boyce

Lord Selkirk of Douglas(from Nov 2007)

Lord Chidgey

Lord Swinfen

Lord Crickhowell

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

Lord Hamilton of Epsom

Lord Tomlinson (until Nov 2007)

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

Lord Truscott (from Nov 2007)

For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord Roper please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Officer, on 020 7219 8659