Thursday

19th Sep 2019

France and Russia agree 'terms' on warship contract

  • Putin (c) in Yerevan (Photo: kremlin.ru)

France and Russia have all-but reached agreement to terminate a contract for two warships.

French president Francois Hollande and Russian leader Vladimir Putin discussed the delivery, or not, of the “Mistral” vessels at a meeting in the margins of genocide solemnities in Yerevan on Friday (24 April).

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

  • Putin (r) 'I think we should look for ways to restore our relationship' (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Hollande told press that if the ships aren’t delivered, then he has reached agreement on the “terms” of a “repayment” to Moscow.

He also urged Russia to implement the “Minsk 2” peace accord, amid ongoing EU and US concern that Russia and its proxies are preparing a fresh offensive in south-east Ukraine.

His spokeswoman added, in comments to EUobserver, that the Yerevan talks “changed nothing” vis-a-vis Hollande’s statement, earlier this week, that delivery is impossible so long as the Ukraine conflict continues.

Putin mentioned his “regret” that Franco-Russian relations are “not in the best condition”, in a situation which has caused “reduced turnover” in bilateral trade.

“I think we should look for ways to restore our relationship.”

Meanwhile, a Russian state mouthpiece, the Tass news agency, cited an official in Putin's Yerevan delegation as saying that an “acceptable option” is if France pays Russia €1.5 billion in reimbursements and penalties for the original Russian payment of €1.12 billion.

The cancellation of the Mistral deal, if it takes place, will please the EU’s Russia hawks.

But it doesn’t mean that leading EU states aren’t ready to make concessions in other areas.

Steinmeier letter

EU sources on Friday told this website that German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote a letter, on 2 April, to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker urging him to adapt the EU-Ukraine free trade treaty.

The letter said the commission should show “maximum flexibility” on the implementation of the pact in order to accommodate “Russian concerns”.

It was followed by an unpublicised meeting of EU, Russian, and Ukrainian technical experts in Brussels on 20 and 21 April.

The trade pact, or “DCFTA”, is the jewel in the crown of EU-Ukraine relations and its rejection by the former Ukrainian regime prompted the pro-Western revolution last year.

It's designed, in recent words by Ukraine’s economy minister, “to totally reorient our trade [from Russia] to the EU. We want to be part of this community, not the other community”.

A diplomat from one hawkish EU state told this website, also on Friday, that “some game” is afoot.

“My colleagues and I were worried, from the beginning, that the EU’s decision [last year] to delay the entry into life of the DCFTA is a sop to Moscow to start serious talks with Berlin,” he added.

“Steinmeier couldn’t have sent this letter without [German chancellor] Merkel’s say-so”.

Crocodile diplomacy

Putin, in separate remarks at the Armenian memorial on Friday, also said “the fraternal peoples of Russia and Armenia have always been characterised by particular spiritual closeness and mutual support”.

He spoke of “the horrors that arise from religious enmity, aggressive nationalism, and xenophobia”.

“Sadly, we see that neo-fascism is once again rearing its head in many parts of the world, radical nationalists are seeking power, and anti-Semitism is on the rise”.

His remarks on “aggressive nationalism” and “neo-fascism” come despite aggressive nationalism in Putin's own propaganda and his support for neo-fascist parties in the EU.

His claim to “fraternal” Armenian relations is also open to question.

Russia, in 2013, “blackmailed” Armenia, in the words of one Armenian official, into ditching a Ukraine-type DCFTA.

It sold billions of dollars of offensive weapons to Armenia's enemy, Azerbaijan, and threatened to impose an economic blockade.

Armenian president Serzj Sarkisian then decided to join Putin’s “Eurasian Union”.

A second Armenian source told EUobserver the Russian bloc is seen in Yerevan as “a mess, a hollow entity, a bit like the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States, an older Russian bloc] … nothing is being done to implement it”.

He noted that, in the light of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, “perhaps our decision to abandon the DCFTA was not too high a price to pay to prevent something similar from happening here”.

He added that Yerevan is waiting for the Eurasian Union to fall by the wayside and for conditions inside Russia to improve before resuming EU integration.

France to sell Mistral warships to EU

France is to supply its Mistral warships to the EU foreign service instead of Russia in order to forge a “genuine European defence policy”.

News in Brief

  1. Austria to veto EU trade deal with South America
  2. Brexit minister asks EU for 'flexibility' to secure a deal
  3. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  4. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  5. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  6. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  7. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  8. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  2. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  3. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  4. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  5. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  6. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  7. A new Commission for the one percent
  8. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us