Sinn Fein MEP says EU 'overly confrontational' towards Putin's Russia
Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan has accused the EU of being "overly confrontational" towards Russia and has defended voting against plans to block a Russian gas line.
Ms Boylan and her Sinn Fein colleagues voted against a recent European Parliament resolution which was critical of Russia's annexation of Crimea and its interference in European elections.
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The 'State of EU-Russia political relations' resolution also aimed to block a controversial offshore pipeline which would deliver gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The Nord Stream 2 gas line is backed by major energy multinationals such as Gazprom, Shell and Uniper.
The EU resolution said the pipe line "reinforces EU dependency on Russian gas supplies, threatens the EU internal market and is not in line with EU energy policy or its strategic interests, and therefore needs to be stopped".
Ms Boylan and Sinn Fein colleagues Matt Carthy and Martina Anderson voted against the directive.
The vote was passed, with 402 MEPs voting in favour of the final resolution, 163 against and 89 abstentions.
Responding to queries about her voting record, Ms Boylan said the EU had "imposed restrictive measures" against Russia since Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and said this resulted in the Kremlin responding with its own restriction.
"This spiralling escalation has weakened the strength of global diplomacy and contributed significantly to increasing global tensions," she said.
Ms Boylan added that the resolution published in March was "overly confrontational" towards Russia as it was "calling for the continuation of a foreign policy approach that offers no solution to the reckless power game being played between Russia and Nato".
She also said: "There are many valid and justifiable reasons to criticise the Russian government for failing to protect human rights and uphold international law. However, the approach contained in this report is lock-step in line with Nato military policy, is recklessly confrontational and can only serve to worsen the situation."
On the gas pipe line, Ms Boylan said she voted against the directive because it gave to EU Commission too much power over member states' gas policy.
"This represents the commission expanding its control over the internal gas market to cover aspects of the gas network in third countries," she said.
"While Gazprom and Nord Stream 2 are certainly not the type of state-led investment we support, we are nonetheless opposed to the expansion of regulations designed to push a liberalised economic model on EU member states and third countries."
In 2015, Sinn Fein abstained from an European Parliament resolution which condemned human rights abuses in Russia and criticised Putin's annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine.