The fact that the Kremlin is increasingly more capable of exploiting the space of freedom that democracies grant, compels us to promote even more strongly the European values of freedom and democracy.
Moscow is aligned with the populist parties in Europe while banningforeign NGOs at home; fuels oppositions to in the West while stifling internal dissent; claims freedom of information for its RT and Sputnik while crushing free press in Russia; complains about discrimination against Russian-Orthodox outside its borders while compressing the religious liberty at home.
In a word, the Kremlin cleverly exploits the freedoms that democratic systems guarantee to their citizens to convey its anti-democratic and discriminatory “values”.
It would be a mistake, however, pay back in the same coin.
And indeed, t the governments of the Baltic countries make a mistake when they shut down – from time to time – the Russian TV on their territory. It ‘a destructive action from all points of view: because it contradicts the very principles of freedom of expression and pluralism of information that claims to defend, and because it gives Moscow an opportunity to cry crocodile tears. In addition, that’s how we allow the Kremlin to give us lessons of democracy, which is like to listen to someonetalking of social etiquettewhile burping and farting.
Similarly, how should we react to new alliances that Putin’s party, United Russia, is tightening with the populist, xenophobic and anti-European far-right parties in Europe? Would it make sense to stop, close and censure? Would something similar to what the Netherlands and Denmarkrecentlydid against Turkish politicians be useful?
Doing so would be a sign of weakness. Stopping anyone from expressing their selves –even AlexanrdrDugin or Dmitri Kyselyov – means to have lost confidence in the rule of law, democracy and the value of fundamental freedoms. The same distrust that is making it increasingly difficult for Europe to promote its own values beyond its borders, from the Balkans to the countries of the Eastern Partnership.
Promoting more strongly the European values means, for example, not accepting war as a mean of international politics. Maintaining and toughening sanctions against Russia is exactly a way to promote these values. And that brings us to the agreements with European xenophobic parties, that make the lifting of the sanctions their own mantra. Like the Northern League in Italy.
A topic that readily exposes the real intentions of Putin’s men. For more than two years, Russian sources continue to repeat sanctionshaven’t even touched Russian economy, yet they do everything to have them lifted. It got even to say that they are good, astimulus to Russian economic, so that it learns to do without Europe. At the same time, however, Moscow has raised a series of selective counter-sanctions to hit various European countries.
This“eye for an eye” would have so far costed to the Italian exports something like €5 bn, according to Lega Nord. Reason enough, they say, to go back to being friends with Moscow, and not caring of Crimea and the Donbass.
But thenthe Italian national statistics institute, Istat, reveals that the Italian trade balance marked in 2015 – at the height of sanctions – the best performance since 1991, with surplus of over €45 bn. In addition, non-EU countries are the leading markets, with a 3.6%growth on an annual basis. Italy, then, has surpassed France and has become the third largest European contributor to exports outside the EU.
Because respondingto lies with facts is also a value that needs to be stronglypromoted.
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