Saturday

23rd Nov 2019

EU likely to extend Russia sanctions before summit

  • Another day: "undetermined explosions, and numerous bursts and single shots of heavy machine-gun and small-arms fire" (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

The EU is preparing to extend its economic sanctions on Russia before the June summit, as Russian diplomats target a winter deadline instead.

The preferred option of EU Council chief Donald Tusk is for EU states' ambassadors to conclude the Russia decision so that leaders can focus on the aftermath of the UK referendum.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Russia setting its sights on blocking sanctions in winter, diplomats said (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

A few Russia-friendly EU countries have told the Dutch EU presidency they wanted a debate on Russia relations, however.

The compromise could be to do the sanctions first but for leaders to still hold talks on Russia at the summit on 28 and 29 June.

“Our consultations [among member states], the G7 summit all point in the same direction - full roll-over for six months by Coreper [the EU ambassadors’ group] before the summit”, one EU source told EUobserver.

“There could be a discussion on Russia at the summit, but not on sanctions”, the source said.

EU leaders imposed the measures, which include curbs on credit to Russian banks and energy firms, after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. They expire on 31 July unless they are renewed by consensus.

At a recent G7 summit in Japan, Italy, which had flip-flopped on Russia, joined France, Germany, the UK and the US in pledging to uphold the sanctions.

A second EU source said if the decision to extend them was taken by Coreper, that would mean it was a done deal.

“It would mean that there’s no doubt on the outcome … If there was a real [cavalry] charge by a group of member states [to stop the sanctions], the decision would have to happen at a higher level”, the source said.

A third EU source said that a “group of eastern European countries” had told the Dutch EU presidency that they wanted a debate on Russia.

He did not name them, but Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Slovakia have publicly criticised EU sanctions policy.

Under EU rules, Council chief Tusk decides the summit agenda but the Dutch presidency decides the Coreper agenda.

The complications meant that the Coreper option “isn’t a done deal yet”, the source said.

A diplomat from one EU state said: “If I were a betting man I would say that sanctions will be rolled over at Coreper level before the summit, but that a [summit] debate may be thrown in as a gesture to those who ask for one”.

“That in itself could be construed as a victory for Putin”, he said, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The EU has tied the sanctions to fulfilment of the Minsk ceasefire accord, a deal struck by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in Belarus last year.

The accord said that “foreign”, meaning Russian, soldiers must leave Ukraine and that it must get back control of its Russia border. It also said Ukraine must alter its constitution to devolve power to regions and hold local elections in what are today Russia-occupied territories.

A second EU diplomat said Russia is still urging the EU to immediately halt sanctions.

“They are saying: ‘How come you’re imposing sanctions on one side [Russia] of Minsk when the other side [Ukraine] is not in compliance either?’,” the diplomat said.

But he said that Russian diplomats “seem resigned” to the six-month roll-over in June. He also said their Minsk complaints are designed to build a case for stopping the next renewal, due in January.

Winter

“It would be harder to get a consensus on sanctions renewal in winter if the situation stayed the same”, the diplomat said.

“A lot will depend on what Ukraine delivers … If it doesn’t move ahead on issues such as the constitutional law, that will help the Russian argument in Europe”, he said.

He said that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s upcoming visit to Russia was intended to show that EU institutions are open to “selective engagement”.

The war in east Ukraine has lasted two years and cost more than 10,000 lives.

In what was a normal day in the conflict, international monitors, the OSCE, on Monday in Yasynuvata, in the Dontesk region “heard more than 200 undetermined explosions, and numerous bursts and single shots of heavy machine-gun and small-arms fire”.

One night earlier, in Stanytsia Luhanska in the Luhansk region, monitors heard “266 explosions”.

Russian steel firm mauls EU officials

One of Russia’s top steel firms has launched a fierce, personal and multi-pronged attack on the EU commission in a bid to overturn anti-dumping penalties.

Interview

Russia 'ready to destabilise half of Eurasia'

Russia does not have a veto on Georgia’s foreign policy and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili does not rule the country, the Georgian president has said.

Opinion

Czech president is Russia's Trojan Horse

If the Czech Republic's pro-Kremlin president Milos Zeman drags the country's most powerful oligarch, Babis, into his orbit, it could mark a geopolitical shift.

Renzi and Juncker send 'poor message' on Russia

Presence of Italian PM, EU Commission head and dozens of European CEOs at business forum in Russia despite US warning shows Western blockade is dissolving, Russian media said.

News in Brief

  1. UK misses UN deadline to return Chagos Islands
  2. PM: Greece will 'shut door' to migrants without rights
  3. CDU leader offers to quit if party doesn't back her
  4. Serbian president confirms Russia spy video
  5. UK to repatriate 'Islamic State' orphans
  6. Man arrested over Maltese journalist murder free on bail
  7. Children with disabilities in Bulgaria isolated, report says
  8. WHO: 80 percent of adolescents don't exercise enough

Magazine

EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us