European Parliament

10/23/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/23/2018 07:15

Motion for a resolution on the situation in the Sea of Azov - B8-2018-0497

The European Parliament,

- having regard to its previous resolutions on Russia and Ukraine, in particular its resolutions of 13 March 2014 on the invasion of Ukraine by Russia(1), of 17 July 2014 on Ukraine(2), of 11 June 2015 on the strategic military situation in the Black Sea Basin following the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia(3), of 16 March 2017 on the Ukrainian prisoners in Russia and the situation in Crimea(4), of 5 October 2017 on the cases of Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz, Ilmi Umerov and the journalist Mykola Semena(5) and of 14 June 2018 on Russia, notably the case of Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov(6),

- having regard to the Association Agreement between the European Union and its Member States, of the one part, and Ukraine, of the other part(7),

- having regard to the agreement between the Russian Federation and Ukraine on cooperation in the use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait of 2003, the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 5 December 1994 and the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of 12 February 2015,

- having regard to the restrictive measures imposed on the Russian Federation in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilisation of Ukraine, including restrictions on economic relations with Crimea and Sebastopol,

- having regard to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the UN Charter and the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts of 2001,

- having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas prior to the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014, the Sea of Azov used to be a largely de-militarised zone, with access for both Ukrainian and Russian vessels under an agreement between the two countries which gave both Russia and Ukraine the right for both states to inspect vessels causing suspicion;

B. whereas the occupation of Crimea and the construction of the Kerch bridge has increased the strategic importance of the Sea of Azov, led to the militarisation of the area thorough increased Russian naval deployments and significantly hinders the access of ships to a number of Ukrainian ports, in particular Mariupol and Berdyansk;

C. whereas Russia's grip over the Kerch Strait has implications for the overall conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine and constitutes another challenge to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity;

D. whereas the construction of the Kerch bridge from Russia to the Crimean peninsula constitutes a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity by the Russian Federation;

E. whereas in July 2018 the EU added six Russian entities to the EU sanctions list on account of their illegal involvement in the construction of the Kerch bridge; whereas under the EU restrictive measures in force against the Russian Federation and the illegally occupied Crimea peninsular, European companies are prevented from participating in or contributing to infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Kerch bridge; whereas several European companies have been found to have supplied equipment and material used in its construction;

F. whereas Russia frequently and in an abusive manner blocks and inspects ships going through the Kerch Strait sailing to or from Ukrainian ports;

G. whereas both the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Agreement on the Sea of Azov of 2003 provide for the freedom of navigation;

1. Condemns the Russian Federation for violating Ukraine's sovereignty by means of the illegal construction of the Kerch bridge, the increased militarisation of the Crimean peninsula and the Sea of Azov and the illegal and abusive blockades and unlawful inspections carried out on commercial ships sailing through the Kerch Strait or in the Sea of Azov, including both Ukrainian vessels and those with flags of third-party states, as well as so far more than 120 ships under flags of various EU Member States, and delaying shipping in the Sea of Azov;

2. Reiterates its support for the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, reconfirms Ukraine's sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula and the Sea of Azov and stresses the absolute necessity for Ukraine to have full access to the Sea of Azov, as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;

3. Considers such abusive and long-lasting inspections by Russia to be restrictions on the freedom of navigation and obstructions to trade and traffic in the region, imposing considerable waiting costs on all vessels on their way to or from Ukrainian ports; points out that these inspections have a significant negative impact on the workload and economic viability of the Ukrainian ports concerned; points out that ships sailing to Russian ports in the Sea of Azov are exempt from these discriminatory inspections;

4. Is deeply concerned that tensions in the region are increasing and that a maritime dimension has been added to the conflict; expresses its concern also at the increased Russian maritime military presence through the reinforcement of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and Coast Guard in the Sea of Azov;

5. Notes that, as a countermeasure, on 17 September 2018 Ukraine decided to abrogate the general 'Friendship Treaty' that it signed with Russia in 1997 and announced the transfer of additional Marine Corps forces and coastal artillery to the Sea of Azov; supports Ukraine in its efforts to continue to use diplomatic and legal means in countering Russian actions, including the ongoing arbitration process under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;

6. Calls on the VP/HR to take the necessary steps to propose that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) mandate, which covers the entire territory of Ukraine, including maritime territory, is activated in order to monitor the situation in the Sea of Azov;

7. Underlines that the Kerch bridge has been illegally constructed and welcomes the Council's decision to impose restrictive measures on six companies involved in the construction of the bridge; underlines that further entities and individuals can be added if needed;

8. Reiterates its concern at the involvement of European companies in the construction of the Kerch bridge, which, through this involvement, knowingly or unknowingly undermined the EU sanctions regime; calls in this regard on the Commission to provide clarification of the scope of the EU restrictive measures in force and on the Member States to share information regarding any national customs or criminal investigations into cases of potential violations; calls also for the setting up of an independent EU sanctions tribunal to decide whether EU companies or countries have violated EU restrictive measures;

9. Calls on the VP/HR to follow more closely the evolving security situation in the Sea of Azov, which may have wider security policy implications affecting the EU and its Member States; calls on the VP/HR furthermore to closely follow the developments, identify the chain of command, and prepare possible EU restrictive measures to be imposed in the event of an escalation;

10. Calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to consider possible ways to support the negatively affected carriers and ports, in particular by strengthening the EU's engagement in the affected ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk with new development and investment projects;

11. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the President, Government and Parliament of Ukraine, the President, Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation, and the Member States.

(1)

OJ C 378, 9.11.2017, p. 213.

(2)

OJ C 224, 21.6.2016, p. 14.

(3)

OJ C 407, 4.11.2016, p. 74.

(4)

OJ C 263, 25.7.2018, p. 109.

(5)

OJ C 346, 27.9.2018, p. 86.

(6)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2018)0259.

(7)

OJ L 161, 29.5.2014, p. 3.