Monday

19th Nov 2018

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. Ireland extradites Polish man despite rule of law concerns
  2. Germany and France agree eurozone budget framework
  3. Austrian foreign minister: EU's Israel policy 'too strict'
  4. Soros and Kurz discuss Central European University move
  5. EU set to tighten rules on foreign strategic investment
  6. Macron repeats call for unified Europe in Bundestag speech
  7. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  8. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem

Opinion

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  2. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  3. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions
  4. EU cheerleaders go to Russia-occupied Ukraine
  5. EU must recognise new force for Balkans destabilisation
  6. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  7. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  8. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us