On 4 March 2022 we learned from the European Commission’s press release about its decision to suspend cooperation with Russia in seven cross-border cooperation programmes (Russia – Poland, Russia – Lithuania, Russia – Latvia, Russia – Estonia, Russia – South-East Finland, Karelia and Kolarctic), as well as in the transnational Interreg Baltic Sea region programme. The Commission also suspended cooperation with our Country in preparation of the new programmes for the period till 2027. However Russia has not yet received an official notification.
It should be noted that Russia and the EU Member States have traditionally regarded regional cooperation as a depoliticised and mutually beneficial instrument of interaction used to build up trust and people-to-people contacts. It could remain the same in future as well. Our neighbours’ rejection of cross-border cooperation can disrupt thousands of regional and local ties, which took many years to create and are the living fabric of our relations.
We would like to point out that the above programmes are not a “property” of the European Union. Their implementation is based on the principles of equality and common funding with Russia. Our Country’s contribution to the ongoing programmes amounts to over 90 million euro. It was transferred to the programmes’ budgets in full.
Taking into consideration the wording of the European Commission’s decision, we have to remind that these programmes, which are being implemented jointly with Russia, are not based on the EU’s own acts but on the respective Financing and Implementation Agreements signed between Russia, the European Commission and the EU Member States. They provide for the possibility of suspension and a corresponding procedure, and subsequently the resumption or, following 180 days, the termination of the Agreements. However, the Agreements stipulate the suspension of the programmes themselves, and not of one signatory’s participation.
Therefore, the European Commission’s decision on the suspension of payments to around 500 Russian project participants hardly conforms to the provisions of the above Agreements and contractual obligations under the programmes. We assume that the European Commission implies its own contribution to the budgets of the programmes, and transfer to the Russian project participants of the funds donated by Russia shall continue.
Russia will thoroughly analyse possible consequences of this decision of the European Commission and will take necessary measures to protect the interests of the Russian participants. At the same time, we urge the EU and the involved EU Member States to keep all their actions within the framework of the above Agreements.
In light of the ongoing information war unleashed by the West against Russia, we also expect publications on the joint information resources of the programmes to be kept depoliticised.
It is highly regrettable that this sphere of cooperation, which was not subject to geopolitical bias, could become yet another victim of the destructive EU sanctions policy.