Sunday

5th Apr 2020

Merkel: EU strategy is to maintain Russia sanctions

  • Merkel: 'The measure for lifting sanctions will be territorial integrity' (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Germany has warned the EU will not roll back Russia sanctions unless Vladimir Putin makes major concessions, in Europe’s first “strategic” talks on the crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told press at an EU summit on Thursday (18 December) that each batch of sanctions was imposed for specific reasons and can be lifted only if the reasons are no longer there.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We decided tonight that the measure for lifting sanctions will be [the] territorial integrity [of Ukraine],” she said.

The chancellor, who spoke to her Russian counterpart by phone on Wednesday, noted that he has made many promises.

But she said Russia continues to flout the so-called Minsk peace agreement and all she can do is “hope” that a recent ceasefire will hold.

“We want to see them [Putin’s promises] implemented”.

British leader David Cameron sent out a similar message, saying: “We should keep those sanctions in place until Russia changes its behaviour and stops the aggression in Ukraine”.

With the sanctions and low oil prices biting, he added the Russian economy is in a “serious” state, but "the door is always open to Russia if it changes its behaviour”.

French leader Francois Hollande was softer.

He said the time is not right for France to resume arms sales to Russia by delivering the first of two contracted warships.

But he noted there is “no need for new sanctions” and said “progress” on the ceasefire means there is a chance to “exit from the crisis”.

The EU in March blacklisted Russian officials over the annexation of Crimea and in July targeted Russian banks and energy firms over its covert war in east Ukraine. It added more Crimea restrictions on Thursday.

But the sanctions expire next year unless all 28 EU states agree to extend them.

Polish former prime minister Donald Tusk, who now chairs EU summits, had asked leaders to take stock of the crisis over dinner.

Merkel said the “strategic discussion” looked at “what we thought had been overcome in 1990 [the end of the Soviet Union] - that countries should determine their own future and not be pulled in spheres of influence”.

Tusk said: “I was really moved tonight because our discussion at the dinner showed the European Union is united as never before on this question”.

He said the EU can help Ukraine overcome its economic problems.

But he described Russia as a long-term “strategic challenge” that requires “practical and pragmatic” counter-measures, which are free of “ideology”.

Tusk briefed media alongside European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Italian PM Matteo Renzi, marking the end of the Italian EU presidency.

Russia hawks have criticised EU institutions and Italy for being too friendly to Russia over the past 10 months.

But both men used forceful words to describe Russia’s actions on the EU’s eastern borders.

Juncker said he “cannot condemn strongly enough” Russia’s “flagrant violations” of international norms.

Renzi acknowledged that Russian troops are in Ukraine, adding: “We must absolutely work with Russia to push Russia out of Ukraine and to come back to international tables for discussions”.

China ignores EU, offers to help Russia

China has joined India in helping the Russian economy, but closer to home Belarus and Kazakhstan are hedging their bets on future relations.

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. EU's 'Irini' Libya mission: Europe's Operation Cassandra
  2. Slovak army deployed to quarantine Roma settlements
  3. Lockdown: EU officials lobbied via WhatsApp and Skype
  4. EU: Athens can handle Covid outbreak at Greek camp
  5. New push to kick Orban's party out of centre-right EPP
  6. EU launches €100bn worker support scheme
  7. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  8. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us