The EU should take a more proactive line on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and impose tougher sanctions on Russia, urged some political groups in Tuesday’s debate with EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle. Others, however, stressed the need to “keep communication channels open”.
“We want to see actions and not words from Russia” said Elmar Brok (DE) of the EPP group, stressing that Russian tanks and troops were still in Ukraine and the ceasefire was not being respected. “Until this is the case, we must maintain the sanctions and strengthen them further. Russia must know that the rule of law stands”, he said.
“Sanctions are no substitute for a diplomatic and political solution”, stressed Gianni Pittella (IT) for the S&D group. He called for efforts to facilitate dialogue between Ukraine and Russia, “so that communication channels with Russia are kept open until tangible steps are taken towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.” Mr Pittella also stressed that the EU should be prepared to ease sanctions if progress is achieved with Russia.
“We must take proactive rather than reactive steps in this conflict, sending to Putin the message that there is a hard substance behind our rhetoric” said Charles Tannock on behalf of the ECR group. He also called on EU member states to arm Ukraine and look into ways to diversify energy routes.
“We are witnessing a war going on and war crimes being committed in Europe. That has revealed the weaknesses of the European security system and exposed Ukraine to undeclared aggression from Russia”, said Petras Auštrevičius (LT) of the ALDE, criticizing the EU’s “self-restrained policy line” and regretting the decision to postpone the implementation of the EU-Ukraine association agreement for 15 months.
“The EU has engaged the third war with Russia, which poisons the internal political life in Ukraine and harms the EU farmers and the economy’ said MEP Georgios Katrougkalos (EL) on behalf of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left. “Instead of policy of dividing, we should opt for uniting”, he insisted.
“My impression is that we have to do everything possible to prevent Putin, who has preferred a military solution, from obtaining what he wants, while we have not been capable of finding a way to protect our Ukrainian friends from this Russian belligerence” said Rebecca Harms (DE) for the Greens/EFA group. She also criticised the EU decision to delay implementation of the EU-Ukraine trade deal.
Nigel Farage (UK), of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group argued that the EU’s current policy was an “unnecessary provocation of Vladimir Putin”. “If you poke the Russian bear with a stick, don’t be surprised if he reacts”, he said.