Sunday

24th Mar 2019

France: EU-Russia sanctions 'must stop now'

  • Hollande (l) on France Inter: The US said his words mean nothing new (Photo: elysee.fr)

French leader Francois Hollande has dangled the prospect of lifting EU sanctions on Russia ahead of the year’s first Ukraine summit.

"I think the sanctions must stop now. They must be lifted if there is progress. If there is no progress the sanctions will remain”, he said on France Inter radio on Monday (5 January).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“[Russian president] Mr Putin doesn’t want to annex eastern Ukraine. He’s told me that … what he wants is to remain influential. What he wants is for Ukraine not to fall into the Nato camp”, he added, referring to his impromptu meeting with Putin at a Moscow airport in December.

Hollande spoke on France Inter for two hours in a Q&A dominated by French economic problems.

His remarks come ahead of a summit of French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian leaders - the so-called Normandy format - in Kazakhstan on 15 January.

They also come ahead of EU foreign ministers’ talks in Brussels four days later on whether to renew Russia sanctions when they begin to expire in March.

The New Year diplomacy will also see Putin go to the Czech Republic and to Poland for a World War II memorial on 27 January.

Hungarian media report he might visit Budapest in March and he has invited EU leaders to attend a WWII parade in Moscow on 9 May.

Foreign ministry officials from Normandy states met in Berlin on Monday to prepare for the Kazakhstan event.

But Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel warned they won't go if there is no prospect of a breakthrough.

"I will go to Astana on January 15 on one condition, which is that there should be a possibility of making new progress. If it's just to meet and talk without making any actual advances then there's no point. But I think there will be progress”, Hollande told France Inter.

Actions, not words

Russian media said his remarks mean Moscow is off the hook for annexing Crimea and that France is keen to resume delivery of two warships.

Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, and the German centre-left SPD party have also said they want to re-engage with Russia.

But a US state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said in Washington on Monday that Hollande’s said nothing new.

“Hollande said sanctions would be lifted if, quote, ‘progress is made’ toward a lasting peace. This has been our position, as well as the position of our European and other partners from the very beginning”, she noted.

“If Russia and the separatists implement the commitments each party made in Minsk [at ceasefire talks in September], we’ll be in a position to begin a rollback of some of the sanctions. But there can be no rollback until there is tangible progress on the ground … It’s not just simply words. It’s actions”.

A spokeswoman for the EU foreign service, Catherine Ray, the same day said there is no change in the EU position as spelled out in December summit conclusions in December.

“The EU will stay the course. The European Council is ready to take further steps [against Russia] if necessary”, the conclusions say.

WWII diplomacy

For is part, Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics - whose country took over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January - urged EU leaders not to break ranks.

Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania - former Soviet republics which host Russian-speaking minorities - fear that if Putin gets away with partitioning Ukraine he will cause trouble in the Baltic states in future.

WWII memorials are normally sacrosanct from contemporary disputes.

But asked on Monday if the Latvian president would go to Moscow for the 9 May parade, Rinkevics told Latvian broadcaster 900 Sekundes: “At the moment, I would really like to see the EU take a joint position. Before any decisions are made, the EU ought to discuss this matter”.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us