Wednesday

21st Feb 2018

Questions emerge on Germany's new Russia policy

  • Putin will meet the EU's top officials in Brussels at the end of January (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The prospect of German support for holding joint EU-Russia-Ukraine talks on Ukraine’s future is causing consternation in some EU circles.

The idea was first put forward by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych last November, when he said he cannot sign an EU association and free trade treaty because of Russian pressure.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It was endorsed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin on TV.

But the European Commission at the time said No.

“What we cannot accept is a condition on a bilateral agreement to have a kind of a possible veto of a third country. This is contrary to all principles of international law,” its chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, told press at an EU summit in Vilnius.

A commission spokesman told EUobserver on Tuesday (14 January) that its position has not changed.

But Germany’s position is open to question.

Chancellor Angela Merkel last November already said the EU should hold more talks with Russia to reassure it that the EU-Ukraine pact would not harm its interests.

She did not mention the trilateral format.

But her new special co-ordinator on Russia, Gernot Erler, who was appointed last week as part of Merkel’s Grand Coalition with the Social Democrats, has explicitly backed the idea.

He told the German foreign policy think tank, the DGAP, in December that if the trilateral talks were premature last year, “in the longer term … one will have to include the Russian side in the mediation process.”

Erler could not be contacted by this website because he has not yet started work.

But the prospect that the Social Democrats will see Berlin give Moscow more say over its former satellites is causing alarm in some EU circles.

“If we go ahead with the trilateral talks on Ukraine, it would be a terrible sign to the other eastern partners, such as Georgia and Moldova,” one EU diplomat said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said this week that Russia is still keen to go ahead.

“This [the trilateral proposal] is a standing offer,” he told a meeting hosted by the EPC think tank in Brussels on Monday.

He noted that the EU-Russia summit on 28 January is a chance to reflect on how to make Ukraine’s potential membership in Russia’s Customs Union compatible with closer EU-Ukraine ties.

“The Customs Union is neither the EU's geopolitical rival nor a Soviet Union 2.0,” he said.

“What we face now is a good opportunity for reflection in those focus countries, in the EU, in Russia … [on] the best way to promote direct ties and links between the two integration processes,” he added.

The EU-Russia summit has a low key agenda on science co-operation.

It is likely to see Russia complain about slow progress on EU visa-free travel and on EU energy market laws.

But it will also contain a brainstorming session in which Barroso, EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy, Putin and their top advisers are to discuss “the nature and direction of [the EU-Russia] strategic partnership.”

Barroso and Van Rompuy last year promised to confront Putin on his “interference” in Ukraine.

If they do, Chizhov on Monday gave a foretaste of how the Russian leader might reply.

The ambassador said Russia’s threats to block trade with Ukraine were “an objective picture” of how Russia would have to defend its automotive and agricultural industries from EU imports if Ukraine signed the EU trade treaty.

He also criticised former German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for doing walkabouts with pro-EU protesters in Kiev.

“This is a form of interference,” he said.

The Russian criticism is also likely to meet with fresh sympathy in Merkel's chancellery.

“I think it was wrong that Mr. Westerwelle visited the demonstrations,” Erler told the DGAP last month.

“There is one thing I do not understand: How can you offer to mediate and, at the same time, clearly take one side? That lacks credibility,” he added on Ashton.

Merkel caves in on Russia appointment

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted the appointment of a pro-Moscow veteran as special coordinator for Russia policy, a concession made to her coalition partner.

Opinion

No good news from Moscow

There is room for EU co-operation with an increasingly authoritarian Russia, but let us end the pretence of "strategic partnership."

EU warns Turkey over 'threat' to Cyprus

The European Commission called on Ankara to refrain from doing "damage to good neighbourly relations", after Turkish vessels stop a rig from reaching a gas drilling zone.

News in Brief

  1. Tusk: EU budget agreed before 2019 elections 'unrealistic'
  2. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  3. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  4. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  5. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  6. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election
  7. Irregular migration into EU drops to four-year low, says Frontex
  8. Macron's new migrant law faces opposition in parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. MEPs bar WMD and killer robots from new EU arms fund
  2. Canete gets EU parliament pension while still commissioner
  3. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  4. We are not (yet) one people
  5. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  6. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds
  7. Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me
  8. A European budget: securing a prosperous future for Europe

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission