‘Push back, constrain, engage’: Josep Borrell presents EU’s strategy on Russia

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BRUSSELS, June 16. /TASS/. EU High Representative Josep Borrell presented a Joint Communication on the EU’s relations with Russia Wednesday, which is built atop three main principles: “push back, constrain and engage”.

“Under present circumstances, a renewed partnership between the European Union and Russia, allowing for closer cooperation, seems a distant prospect. Our ambition should be to explore paths that could help change the current dynamics gradually into a more predictable and stable relationship. The EU will simultaneously push back, constrain and engage with Russia, based on a strong common understanding of Russia’s aims and an approach of principled pragmatism,” Borrell said during a press conference in Brussels.

This strategy for relations with Russia has already been approved by the European Commission, and now it must be adopted by the EU heads of states and governments during the June 24-25 summit in Brussels. This strategy was presented one day after the EU-US summit in Brussels, where the sides agreed to significantly increase the trans-Atlantic partnership, stop trade wars and coordinate their actions on Russia and China.

The three principles

During the press conference, Borrell explained each of the three principles.

The EU intends to “push back” against “human rights violations,” and alleged “consistent breaches of international law in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere.” It also intends “to respond to the Russian government’s malicious actions, including hybrid threats, in an appropriate manner, and will aim at limiting the resources the Russian government can draw on to carry out its disruptive foreign policy”.

The EU intends to “constraint” Russia’s “attempts to undermine EU interests,” and, to that extent, “the Union itself must become more robust and resilient,” Borrell noted. The EU intends to develop its “cyber security and defense capacity, as well as its strategic communication capabilities.” The Union intends to coordinate with “like-minded partners,” such as NATO and the G7, as well as “step up support” to its “Eastern partners”.

Meanwhile, the EU intends to “engage Russia” on several “key challenges,” including on climate change, on combating the pandemic and on public health. Besides, the document proposes to have “more technical engagement with the Russian government on the vast number of economic irritants, leveraging the EU’s competitive advantages”. The EU is also ready to engage in a dialogue on the Arctic and other fields of regional cooperation, as well as on settlement and prevention of global and regional conflicts.

The EU also proposed “further people-to-people contacts,” by easing visa regime, but only for “certain Russian citizens”.