With escalating violence in Ukraine overshadowing the G7 summit, MEPs are calling for the EU to stand shoulder to shoulder with Kyiv and reject Russia's "expansionist ambitions".
Co-chair of parliament’s Greens/EFA group Rebecca Harms called on G7 leaders - including representatives from the US, Canada, Japan, UK, France, Germany and Italy - “Not to idly standby and accept this deterioration, with its inevitable humanitarian consequences.” She further added “A way must be found to make Russia honour its commitments on the disarmament of separatists… Russia must immediately and publicly cease all support to armed separatists."
"EU and US relations with Russia have been seriously damaged by the situation in Ukraine, and it's impossible to discuss one without the other" - Charles Tannock
Charles Tannock, a leading ECR MEP on parliament's foreign affairs committee told the Parliament Magazine that, "EU and US relations with Russia have been seriously damaged by the situation in Ukraine, and it's impossible to discuss one without the other."
Like Harms, Tannock blames Russia for the escalating violence, saying, “Putin's continued wish to destabilise Ukraine is beyond doubt." His actions, warned Tannock, "must be seen in the wider context of expansionist ambitions, and should dominate the tone of EU-US-Russian relations in the near future."
Despite both decrying Russian activity in Ukraine and issuing a call for further sanctions should the violence escalate, differences exist between MEPs as to how the EU and the US should react militarily to Russia. Harms stressed that, "There can be no military solution to the conflict over Ukraine," citing the US and Nato’s pledge to bolster the defence of neighbouring countries to Russia "counterproductive".
"The Russian strategy of using its raw material for political ends also requires a united European response… a common European energy strategy must be founded on the principle of solidarity" - Rebecca Harms
Instead the German MEP called on the G7 and the EU to "engage in a more coherent diplomacy, including meaningful economic sanctions". For Harms, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is currently carrying out a monitoring mission in Ukraine, should be taking the lead. "The OSCE mission needs to be strengthened. Russia must fulfil its obligations as a member of the OSCE and publicly demand the release of all kidnapped members of the mission and disappeared journalists, politicians and civilians."
Tannock, however, welcomed the recent US announcement of €734 million in funding to bolster European security as part of Nato "as a positive step". He wanted to see the military alliance play a further role, saying, "I also believe Nato member states should offer Ukraine military assistance so that it can defend itself."
Both MEPs agreed that the G7 should explore means to reduce energy dependence on Russia, with Harms saying, "The Russian strategy of using its raw material for political ends also requires a united European response… a common European energy strategy must be founded on the principle of solidarity, with renewable energy and energy efficiency at its core," and warned against any "retrograde step back towards fossil fuels and nuclear-based energy policy".
Tannock, in support of Harms’ sentiments, said, "In the long-term, it is vital that European countries reduce their reliance on Russian energy imports - something which I am pleased to see is being pursed with the publication this week of the commission's proposals to achieve this."
Tannock hoped the recent election of Petro Poroshenko as Ukraine’s new president would "be the beginning of a positive new phase in the ongoing situation".
"Securing over 50 per cent of the vote in the first round, with a broad support across the whole of Ukraine, the international community must now support him as a candidate of unity."
The British MEP called on the EU to "support the Ukraine's weak and fragile economy", as a priority, especially accelerating the signing of an EU-Ukraine deep and comprehensive free trade area and association agreement. This will "signal that Ukraine is a European country and under article 49 of the EU treaties, a potential EU candidate in the future", concluded Tannock.