Ministers noted that currently they saw no reason to change the EU’s policy towards Russia, as Russia itself had not changed its foreign policy, continued to interfere in the affairs of its neighbors and other countries, and had lately become even more aggressive.
“Russia is demonstrating its strength not only at the regional but also at the global level. The West cannot rely on its partnership with Russia, which is not involved in conflict resolution, but rather in escalation. We are talking not only about Georgia or Ukraine, but also about the Syrian province of Idlib and the escalation in Libya," said L. Linkevičius.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister also urged his counterparts to critically assess their plans to pay official visits to Moscow, as Russia exploits its numerous conflicts to give the impression of normal collaboration and succeeds in doing so.
“Russia likes symbols. The parade that takes place in Moscow in May not just marks the victory in World War II, but also aims to celebrate the victories of Russia's current military policy," said Lithuania’s Foreign Minister.
L. Linkevičius also stressed that the EU-Russia relations must continue to be based on five guiding principles agreed in 2016 and reaffirmed by EU member states in 2018: 1) full implementation of the Minsk agreement as the key condition for any substantial change in the EU’s stance towards Russia, maintenance of sanctions; (2) strengthened relations with the EU’s Eastern Partners and other neighbors, including Central Asia; (3) strengthening the resilience of the EU (e.g. energy security, hybrid threats or strategic communication); (4) selective engagement with Russia on a range of challenges a range of challenges on a global scale and issues of interest to the EU; (5) need to engage in people-to-people contacts and support Russian civil society.
In addition, L. Linkevičius called on his EU counterparts to more actively participate in the dialogue with Russian civil society and informed about the seventh Vilnius Russia Forum to be held in Lithuania in May this year, which offered a platform for discussions (in Russian) on the future of Russia in a free and democratic Europe, and the revived Sakharov human rights hearings after a 35-year break.