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Russia set for closer cooperation with EP - experts

May 27, 2014, 17:22 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, May 27. /ITAR-TASS/. Far-right parties and Eurosceptics gained one-third of seats in the European Parliament (EP) in the election on May 22-25. Nationalist deputies and opponents of further EU integration now hold a total of 230 out of 751 seats, having increased their representation to 30.6% from 20.4% after the 2009 election.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls compared the victory of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National in France to an earthquake. The UK Independence Party won in Britain under the leadership of Nigel Farage who advocates leaving the EU. Greece, most hit by the economic crisis, has elected the left radical coalition Syriza, while the Italian left populist party Five Stars gained support of 25%.

Brussels’ weight is obviously in decline amid the economic slump and financial crisis, not to mention possible troubles with Ukraine and consequences of anti-Russian sanctions, experts say.

“The results of this EP election were easy to predict. Though the far-right and left parties strengthened their representation, the mainstream parties will continue to dominate and determine the policy of the EU legislative body,” the head of the European political studies department at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations Nadezhda Arbatova told ITAR-TASS.

The expert believes the EU has become “an elitist project” that ignores the people’s interests.

“The people’s far-right sentiment is a signal to Brussels it should give more consideration to the mood of ordinary people, an evidence of deficient confidence in the EU technocratic bodies that ignore the interests of ordinary taxpayers,” Arbatova said. “People are always an obstacle for bureaucrats. Notably, it is not only the nations that are going through the acute social and economic crisis that demonstrated Euroscepticism but also the well-to-do Netherlands. Brussels will have to keep this sentiment in mind.”

Even so, Russia should not hope for these sideline parties’ support in the EP, Arbatova believes.

“Indeed, the leaders and senior functionaries of right parties have repeatedly expressed support for Moscow’s policy in general and in Ukraine in particular. They see Russia as a potential influential ally and in that make clever use of its Euroscepticism. But in relation to Kiev, Russia is consistently anti-nationalist and anti-xenophobic,” said Arbatova.

Russian right-wing conservative parties, she believes, will rather cooperate with the largest faction of the EP - the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats and European Democrats).

In the current situation, it would be a mistake to see the EU as the US's younger brother or accomplice, Arbatova believes. “There is a clear difference between Washington’s and EU attitudes to Moscow,” the expert said. The EU’s main lever is diplomacy in contrast to the United States' reliance on force. This is obvious from their rhetoric - for instance, from the statements of Angela Merkel and Barack Obama about the Ukrainian crisis. Washington insists on tougher sanctions against Russia, while the EU is unwilling to go against its own economic interests and aggravate relations with Moscow. Therefore, the US impact on the EU foreign policy should not be exaggerated.”

Russia needs a reasonable and flexible policy to prevent anti-Russian alliance of the US and EU, Arbatova believes.

“Russia’s stance on Ukraine and Crimea’s accession will have more chances to find understanding in the new EP. But being a multinational country that adheres to traditional values, Russia should be cautious in cooperating with the far-right parties in Brussels,” the director of the Institute of the Strategic Evaluation, Sergei Oznobishchev, told ITAR-TASS.

“Russia needs to find common grounds with the EP, the more so since this election was the first under the Lisbon Treaty that gives the EU legislative body wider authority, especially in the Eastern Partnership program. The European Commission’s decision-making will not be independent but determined by the EP,” the director for international research at the Institute of Contemporary Development, Sergei Kulik, told ITAR-TASS.

“Our special hope is that the EU right parties’ representative, Jean-Claude Juncker, is elected EC president as the Russian government has good contacts with him and he is a man with whom you can cooperate constructively,” the expert said.

“Much in the Russian-EU relations will depend on the crisis settlement in Ukraine. The European Union has not yet grasped all the possible losses and how dear it may cost Brussels. Either way, Russia needs more active cooperation with the EP,” Kulik believes.


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