Brussels, 22/10/2013 (Agence Europe) – The European Parliament has welcomed the European Commission's proposal to offer preferential EU access to Moldovan wine – wine which is the victim of a Russian embargo.
During a debate at the beginning of the Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg on Monday 21 October – a debate which was the fruit of an oral question to the Commission from Laima Liucija Andrikiene (EPP, Lithuania) and which came before Wednesday's vote on a resolution on European neighbourhood policy – MEPs insisted on the EU's duty to protect its Eastern neighbours from Russian economic pressure.
Ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit (in Vilnius on 28-29 November), which is due to bring the EU and six former USSR republics (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) closer together through the signing of an association agreement (including a free trade area) with Ukraine, and the initialling of agreements for free trade areas with Georgia and Moldova, Russia has multiplied its intimidation measures on these countries which were formerly under Moscow's charge. As well as the Russian embargo on Moldovan wine, Armenia's U-turn – which renounced its agreement for a free trade area with the EU in order to join the Eurasian customs union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia – “shows the effectiveness of this pressure”, said George Sabin Cutas (S&D, Romania).
On Monday, MEPs involved in these issues welcomed the Commission's proposal to amend the regulation on the EU's autonomous preferences to Moldova in order to grant Moldovan quota-free access to the European market, in compensation for losses resulting from the Russian embargo on this product. MEPs also welcomed the measures proposed by the Commission to accelerate procedures that will enable provisional application of the free trade area between the EU and Ukraine by mid-2014, if the association agreement is signed.
During the debate, some MEPs believed that the EU should do still more to show Russia that the EU has leverage to propose specific measures to help the Eastern Partnership countries which are very dependent on trade with their Russian neighbour. Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL, Germany) called for measures to help Georgia – while not closing the door on Russia. Jaroslav Paska (EFD, Slovakia) also called for this. (EH/transl.fl)