Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

EU to extend Russia sanctions despite Brexit

  • EU and US still "hand in hand," Mogherini (r) said while meeting Kerry (l) (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The EU is fully ready to prolong its sanctions on Russia, in a sign that the bloc’s foreign policy still works despite the British referendum.

France, Sweden and the UK last week had imposed “parliamentary reserves” on the move, meaning they wanted to consult national MPs before going ahead.

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  • Putin said British people did not like subsiding poorer EU states (Photo: kremlin.ru)

The British reserve was lifted prior to the referendum on the EU, held last Thursday (23 June), a British diplomat told EUobserver.

The French reserve was lifted the same day it was submitted despite the fact that several French MPs and most of French senators had wanted to mend ties with Russia.

Sweden, which did not face similar problems and which routinely consults national MPs on EU decisions, followed suit.

One EU source said that paves the way for the economic sanctions to be extended for six months “probably by written procedure”, in which capitals ratify an EU decision without sending their ministers to Brussels, before the end of July.

A second EU source said the procedure would be initiated at or shortly after the EU summit on Tuesday and Wednesday. The diplomat said EU ambassadors might first hold another round of Russia talks on Thursday, however.

Russia will feature briefly at the summit when EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini describes it as a “strategic challenge” while presenting a broader EU strategy paper.

The French and German leaders might also give their views on the status of the Minsk ceasefire deal in Ukraine, which they helped to negotiate, a senior EU diplomat said. But Russia relations will not appear in the formal summit conclusions, the diplomat said.

The leaders’ meeting will be dominated by the UK issue.

Speaking in the EU capital on Monday, US secretary of state John Kerry said US-EU and US-UK relations would endure despite the Brexit crisis.

He said he came to Brussels to hear “first hand, personally” what European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and what Mogherini thought of the developments, before going to London later the same day.

Shared values

Kerry urged EU states to take a “strategic” approach to UK exit talks and to avoid “scatterbrained or vengeful” reactions.

He said the US, the UK and the EU had shared values and interests and that “none of this changed on the day of the [British] vote”. But he said that Brexit would have “consequences” for the EU and that leaders are “moving aggressively” to allay popular discontent with how the EU works.

Mogherini said she would keep Kerry informed on “all procedures” related to the Brexit talks and that the EU and US would continue to walk “hand in hand” on the world stage.

They listed climate change, counter-terrorism, migration, Libya and the Middle East peace process as issues of joint concern.

In a view on Brexit from the Kremlin, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said last Friday: “Regarding the sanctions policy, I do not think that this will in any way impact our relations with the EU in this regard.”

He said it looked like British people were unhappy about subsiding poorer EU states, about immigration and the “concentration of power” in EU institutions, which, he said, had embarked down "the road of erasing national borders”.

Germany exposed

Steven Blockmans, a Belgian scholar of EU affairs at CEPS, a think tank in Brussels, told EUobserver that Brexit “seriously threatened the EU’s global standing and soft power status, its ability to play a greater role on global security issues”.

He said it would leave Germany “more exposed” to Russia-friendly states such as Italy and Hungary that want to undo the sanctions regime.

But he said the UK “like other third countries, would continue to lobby those states and would align itself to any CFSP [EU foreign policy] decision cobbled together by the EU-27”.

He also said that, in the long term, the UK departure could lead “to a more truly common foreign and security policy” because the UK had been the strongest opponent of EU defence cooperation, on issues such as pooling of resources or the creation of a new EU military HQ in Brussels.

Dutch might not ratify Ukraine treaty, PM says

Rutte said changing the text or not ratifying it at all were two options after Dutch people voted against it in a referendum. Treaty would likely survive in another form.

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