Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Poland and Lithuania rebuke Juncker on Russia

  • Juncker (l) with Putin and Merkel at the Paris climate conference in November (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Poland and Lithuania have rebuked the EU Commission for seeking closer economic ties with Russia while it continues to wage war in Ukraine.

Their foreign ministers, Witold Waszczykowski and Linas Linkevicius, said “we [the EU] have to stop sending optimistic and encouraging signals” to Moscow at a “sensitive” moment in relations.

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They issued the warning in a letter, dated 11 December and seen by EUobserver, to the EU trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstroem, and the EU foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini.

They said: “Possible deeper economic integration between the EU and the Russian Federation … depends on a set of specific conditions,” but “we lack any meaningful progress on fulfilling these conditions.”

They said Russia must first implement the “Minsk” ceasefire pact in Ukraine, by extracting its troops and handing back control of the border. They also said Russia must lift its EU food embargo.

"We are surprised and concerned about the recent signals sent to the Russian Federation, which provide an overly optimistic perspective and send a positive message without references to the conditions,” they added.

“The future course of our relations will be determined by Russia’s domestic and foreign policy, which so far shows no signs of the necessary changes.”

They also said the wrong signals could “undermine” EU efforts to forestall Russia trade sanctions against Ukraine.

Juncker

Waszczykowski and Linkevicius reacted after Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission chief, voiced interest in holding talks with the Eurasian Economic Union (EUU), a Russian-led trade bloc.

Juncker, in a letter to Russian leader Vladimir Putin last month, seen by the Reuters news agency, expressed “regret” closer EU-Russia ties “have not been able to develop,” adding: "I can assure you that the European Commission will be a helpful partner in this process.”

Waszczykowski and Linkevicius said if the EU is to hold talks with the EEU these should be “at the working level, oriented at the exchange of technical information.”

They said the Eurasian union is “a body of five countries - with current presidency Belarus - and technical contacts (if any) could take place between the appropriate institutions which represent the EU and the whole EEU … not only its single member - Russia.”

Sanctions

EU leaders are expected, later this week, to extend the duration of economic sanctions on Russia.

But Juncker’s EEU initiative comes amid wider efforts to repair ties with Moscow.

“It is true that, one year ago, Italy could have been, effectively, isolated in trying to start a dialogue with Russia, instead of building a wall. But today this is pretty much the mainstream view supported by all member states,” Italy’s foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, told press in Brussels on Monday.

Nato has resumed meetings with Russian officials to help avoid accidental military clashes in Syria. The US secretary of state John Kerry also visited Moscow on Tuesday to talk about Syria.

EU institutions reach out to Moscow

The EU Commission has proposed closer trade ties with Russia’s economic bloc, as the EU Parliament invites back Russian MPs.

Russia imposes Ukraine trade measures

Russia has cancelled free trade privileges for Ukraine from 1 January, but says it still wants to meet EU mediators this weekend.

Lithuania's odd couple keeps nation guessing

The new prime minister Saulius Skvernelis and his leader from the Peasants and Greens party Ramunas Karbauskis were the suprise winners of last month's elections. But what they want to do is still unclear.

EU states agree six-month Russia sanctions

EU states’ ambassadors in Brussels on Friday agreed to extend Russia economic sanctions for six months, despite an earlier obstruction by Italy.

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