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July 5th 2021
By: Norvisi Mawunyegah
After Poland and the Baltic nations argued it would send the wrong message as East-West relations deteriorated, European Union leaders failed to agree on a request by France and Germany to host a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly. On June 16, after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, French President Emmanuel Macron stated the first EU summit with Putin since January 2014 will be “a conversation to protect our interests.” He maintained that the EU’s diplomacy with Russia could not just be reactive.
The 27 EU leaders, however, failed to achieve a deal following late-night discussions in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced early on Friday. “It was a very comprehensive discussion, and not an easy one,” she told reporters. “There was no agreement today on an immediate leaders’ meeting,” she said.
After Moscow invaded Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and the West applied sanctions, EU summits with Russia came to a halt. Many other politicians were opposed to the Franco-German idea, including Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
“It was a common position of many leaders” not to change the stance on Russia, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after the meeting broke up. He earlier said the idea was like “trying to engage the bear to keep a pot of honey safe”.
Even if diplomacy has failed to settle the crisis in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed rebels, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins warned the EU risks rewarding Russia with a summit. Instead, EU leaders reverted to a familiar stance, warning that if Russia maintained its campaign of misinformation, cyber and covert assaults, and intervention to divide the bloc, additional penalties would be imposed.
Russia maintains that it has committed no crime. Leaders called on the European Commission and Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, to “offer possibilities for extra restrictive measures, including economic sanctions” against Russia in a summit declaration. Individual sanctions against Russians suspected of human rights violations and the use of prohibited chemical weapons have been imposed by the EU on the Russian energy, banking, and armaments industries.
Further penalties, as non-EU member Britain did for the first time in April, may target Russian money laundering or strong oligarchs accused of severe wrongdoing abroad, according to diplomats.