Press "Enter" to skip to content

Borell’s journey to the Tsar’s court: Between passivity and foolishness

Josep Borell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policies (HR), concluded his institutional visit to Russia on the 6th February 2021. During his visit, the HR met the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sergej Lavrov, to discuss the future EU and Russia relationship. The core of the discussion was the Russian threat on the Russian-Ukrainian border and the Russian interference in Belarus’ internal affairs. However, Borell also stressed the need for cooperation between the two players and underlined the importance of respect for the Helsinki Final Act. In this sense, the HR wanted to draw the counterpart’s attention on the ongoing human rights violations in Russia and on the developments regarding Alexei Navalny.

Stay up to Date – Subscribe to our newsletter.

What accelerated the EU representative’s visit was the arrest of Navalny, the famous political opposition leader in Russia, who returned to Russia after having recovered in Germany from a Novichok poisoning that occurred in August 2020. Before being arrested at the Sheremetyevo airport in a daring attempt to avoid a public rally, the Russian blogger demonstrated the guilt of the Russian Secret Services (FSB) through a documentary released on his YouTube channel, when he was able to obtain a confession of one of the officers in charge of his death sentence. His arrest, motivated by “his violations of the probation period” caused massive protests in Moscow. Navalny’s followers and supporters filled the streets of the capital for several days and weeks calling for his release from prison – but without success. Navalny was condemned for three-and-a-half years in jail. As a consequence, more Russian citizens poured into the streets of Moscow. The Kremlin activated its special forces in order to crush the protest: thousands were arrested, but the riots seem far from over.

The severe reprisals of the Russian police caused outraging sentiments in the West and the European Court of Human Rights condemned the treatment of the protesters. What followed were threats of new sanctions by the UK, the US, and the European Union, which unfortunately did not make the Russian institutions stop the violence against their citizens.

At present, the relationship between Russia and the EU are at their lowest ever, and despite Borell’s visit to Moscow, the situation is still far from being solved. Moreover, during the institutional meeting, Russia notified three European countries (Poland, Germany, and Sweden) that their diplomats were “persona non grata” and were hence expelled – an affront that Borell did not address during his public speech at all. Instead, he merely asked Russia to reconsider the expulsion of European diplomats.

Despite Ursula Von der Leyen’s applaud of Borell’s visit, it seems very simplistic to limit ourselves to a positive consideration about what happened during the HR’s stay in Moscow. Russia displayed one more time its disregard of the Europeans and their principles, in particular against the freedom of expression and assembly. On the one hand, Borell’s passiveness highlighted the main weakness of the European Union, namely its incapability to take serious and strong measures with regard to the violation of crucial matters such as human rights threats. And, on the other hand, it also makes us question the value and the effectiveness of sanctions towards Russia. To what extent will Russia be able to disregard human rights and get away with its behavior in the future? And to what extent will the European Union be able to punish such behavior in its neighborhood?

Those are the most compelling questions the EU round has to face in the near future with regard to the EU-Russia relationship. For the sake of the citizens, their lives, and their rights on the continent.

Sources

An Introduction To The Eastern Mediterranean – The Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 2000 to 2020

The Eastern Mediterranean has been the historic crossroads of four regions: Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Except for being the “home” of their multiple and diverse geographic affiliations and varied political identities, it also constitutes a territory of great strategic importance. The fifth part of this series discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 2000-2020.

Russian Special Operation: Genocide

It is difficult to be a neighbor of Russia because one fine morning the missiles may fall and the Kremlin's policy will try to convince you that this is a "special operation" and everything is happening for your own good. Occupation of Abkhazia in 1992, the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the invasion of Ukraine in 2022: This is just a small list of Russia’s crimes in the recent past, disguised as a "special operation". However, unlike in 2008, today the world clearly sees the bloody crimes committed by Russia.

Is it finally time for EU merger control reform?

In recent years, preserving the single market through competition rules has come to the fore due to increasing foreign competition. In the context of merger control, the planned takeover of the French firm Alstom by the German company Siemens has given rise to a debate. The European Commission's prohibition of the merger raised two particular questions this analysis seeks to answer while looking at proposed amendments to the merger rules.

Cameroon: An Unfolding Crisis

The fight for recognition of independence and autonomy in the two Cameroon English-speaking regions continues to be one of the most neglected crisis on the planet. Despite the serious state of instability in the region, the global media perpetuates the silence, and the international community’s intervention remains unstructured. This article wants to shed a light on the key dynamics that underlie the current state of affairs and how historical, social, and political aspects intertwined and contributed to the development of the current situation.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.