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24th Aug 2019

EU leaders undecided on Russia sanctions

  • Tusk, a former Polish PM, described Russia as an 'enemy' of the EU and US (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU leaders have not yet agreed what to say on Russia sanctions at next week’s summit, despite harsh words on Moscow by EU Council chief Donald Tusk in the US.

The draft summit conclusions, seen by EUobserver, contain a blank on sanctions for now.

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They do say that implementation of the “Minsk” ceasefire agreement is “Russia's responsibility” and that there is “full commitment” for closer EU ties with Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

But they also highlight the need to “continue efforts” on EU-Russia-Ukraine talks on gas flows and on the “implementation” of an EU-Ukraine free trade treaty.

With the Ukraine conflict posing concerns over security of Russian gas supply, leaders will recommend steps designed to reduce dependence.

They say member states should focus on “accelerating infrastructure connections” to share gas and electricity if there is a Russian cut-off.

They also call for “ensuring full compliance with EU law and energy security priorities of all agreements with external suppliers that may affect EU energy security”, in a reference to bilateral EU-Russia energy deals which have in the past deepened EU divisions on foreign policy.

No extra sanctions

For his part, EU Council chief Donald Tusk, who will chair the summit on 19 and 20 March, spoke harshly of Russia while visiting the US on Monday (9 March).

“Our enemies who use propaganda against us, commit acts of violence, and violate the sovereignty of our neighbours - they want to weaken the political commitment of the Western world. Today, we can see with full clarity that they are trying to divide us, from inside of Europe, as well as Europe and America”, he told press alongside US president Barack Obama in the White House.

Obama echoed Tusk in saying the West needs to “maintain pressure on Russia” to abide by Minsk.

Tusk, in an interview in The New York Times on Sunday, also noted that Russia has violated the Minsk agreement more than 1,000 times since the deal was reaffirmed last month and that, he believes, “Russia wants to rebuild control over the whole of Ukraine”.

But despite his strong words he said it's “impossible” to reach an EU consensus on extra sanctions.

With Cyprus, Hungary, and Italy in recent weeks courting a rapprochement with Russia, Tusk added: “Some politicians in Europe are ready to believe that there is a chance of good will [from Russian leader Vladimir Putin] … I am more sceptical”.

No arms for Ukraine

The US has during the conflict taken a more hawkish line than the EU 28, including a threat to send weapons to the Ukrainian military.

But for his part, Peter Witting, the German ambassador to the US, said on Monday that Obama in February promised German chancellor Angela Merkel he won’t send arms for now.

“The two leaders exchanged views on that issue and there was unity by them not to impose, or not to go forward with, the delivery of lethal defensive weapons at this time,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

“We have to weigh carefully whether this would inject an additional element that could be a pretext or a trigger for counter-reaction by the Russian leadership”, he said.

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