Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Juncker agrees to visit Russia in June

  • Juncker's trip to St. Petersburg next month would be a first by an EU leader since 2014 (Photo: European Commission)

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has agreed to visit Russia in June.

It will be the highest-profile visit by an EU official since the Ukraine crisis erupted in 2014.

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Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas told journalists in Brussels that the commission president planned to take part in the St Petersburg international economic forum on 16 June in order to “convey to the Russian leadership the EU perspective on current state of EU-Russian relations”.

He would not confirm whether Juncker would hold any direct talks with president Vladimir Putin, but said it was "evident" the two would meet at the forum.

He said he did not see inconsistency between Juncker's trip and the decision, to be taken just days later, on whether to extend sanctions against Russia.

EU countries are divided over the measures imposed in 2014 following Russia's annexation of Crimea and continued support for Ukrainian rebels.

Putin last week travelled to Greece to lobby against extending the sanctions. Other EU countries such as Italy and Hungary are also reluctant to extend the punishing sanctions, saying they also hurt European economies.

EU countries agreed in March that easing sanctions would be conditional on a peace accord in Ukraine. But countries also supported "selective engagement with Russia" and a "need to engage in people-to-people contacts".

Juncker has called for a "practical relationship" with Moscow.

Last October he caused a stir when he said: “We must make efforts towards a practical relationship with Russia. It is not sexy, but that must be the case, we can’t go on like this.”

He added: “Russia must be treated decently. We can’t let our relationship with Russia be dictated by Washington.”

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