Ask EP By / August 8, 2014

MH17 aircraft disaster and EU reaction on Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine

After the crash of Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 in Ukraine on 17 July 2014, citizens sent messages of grief and…

© Babawong / Fotolia
After the crash of Malaysia Airlines plane MH17 in Ukraine on 17 July 2014, citizens sent messages of grief and concern to the European Parliament. They commented on the violent conflict in eastern Ukraine and urged the European Union to take more determined action to resolve the crisis. On 22 July, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee held a minute’s silence for the victims of the plane crash, followed by a debate with Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. Committee members called for a united line between EU Member States on tougher sanctions towards Russia, in reaction to the Russian authorities’ unwillingness to control the flow of arms and heavy weapons across the border to the eastern regions of Ukraine. More information about the debate is available in a press release of the European Parliament. President Schulz expressed his shock and sadness about the tragic crash in a statement he made on 17 July, adding that ʻthe circumstances which led to this crash must be thoroughly investigated and responsibility for this tragedy establishedʼ.

Parliament’s position

A shaddow of a plane on Ukraine and Russian flag
© Babawong / Fotolia
The last plenary sitting of the European Parliament before summer recess took place on 17 July, finishing a couple of hours before the plane crash. Earlier that day, a new EP resolution on Ukraine was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 497 votes to 121 with 21 abstentions. The resolution condemned the ongoing violence and daily loss of lives in eastern Ukraine, underlined the need for a political solution to the crisis and urged all sides to demonstrate restraint. The Members of the European Parliament reaffirmed the right of Ukraine to self-defence. At the same time, the Parliament urged the Ukrainian security forces to fully respect international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) when conducting so-called anti-terrorist operations and stressed the need to protect the civilian population. The resolution called upon Russia to ʻadopt measures to control its own border with Ukraine effectively and stop the continued incursion of illegal armed men and of arms and equipment, hostile action and infiltrationʼ and force rebels to lay down their weapons, inter alia. In this resolution, the Members of the European Parliament supported the preparatory work undertaken by the Council and the Member States with a view to further sanctions against Russia and called on the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to have a stronger presence and greater visibility in the dialogue mechanisms established with a view to resolving the crisis. More information about the resolution can be found in a press release of the European Parliament.

EU measures against Russia

Decisions on concrete sanctions are prepared by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in collaboration with the Member States, and need to be approved by the Council of the European Union, i.e. the body representing the governments of the Member States. The Council adopted on 31 July 2014 a package of significant additional restrictive measures targeting sectoral cooperation and exchanges with Russia. These decisions will limit access to EU capital markets for Russian State-owned financial institutions, impose an embargo on trade in arms, establish an export ban for dual use goods for military end users, and curtail Russian access to sensitive technologies particularly in the field of the oil sector.

Updates on EU’s actions and initiatives

The website of the European External Action Service (EEAS) provides regularly updated information on declarations and decisions at European level concerning Russia and Ukraine.
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