EU must change 'ideological' policy on Russia, says Slovak FM
By Eric Maurice
The EU needs to redefine its relations with Russia and evaluate economic sanctions, Slovakia's foreign minister has said.
"We need to redefine relationships and put it on realistic ground," Miroslav Lajcak told journalists in Bratislava on Thursday (30 June) a day before Slovakia takes the six-month presidency of the EU Council.
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He said the EU had been "too ideological", with western members states being "hypocritical" and eastern members "unrealistic".
He said the EU needed "a new kind of partnership" with Russia.
"I propose we treat Russia like a strategic reality, whenever we can, on issues we can,” he said, adding that "without Russia we are unable to solve a number of local problems".
"Russia is a fact, it is a global player," he said.
EU leaders are set to discuss their Russia policy in October but an informal meeting of foreign ministers in September will be "a good platform" to start, the Slovak minister said.
EU countries this week are expected to extend economic sanctions against Russia until December.
Before the next decision, EU states should evaluate if sanctions bring them closer to their goals, Lajcak said.
“It's not credible to extend sanctions every six months without discussion,” he said. “No-one should be afraid of discussion.”
He noted that sanctions were effective in a way "because they hurt the Russian economy".
But he also noted that EU's goal was to change Russia's political position on Ukraine, but that had not happened.
"Are we going to stick to sanctions or are we going to adapt them," he asked. "It should depend on the situation in the ground."
At the end of the year, the 2014 Minsk agreement for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine will be assessed, and some countries like Italy and Hungary have asked for a general discussion on sanctions and Russia relations.
That is why the government wants to push for a discussion ahead of the October summit, said a Slovak source, who dismissed views that Slovakia was against the sanctions.
Earlier this year, Slovak prime minister Robert Fico said "the sooner [sanctions] are removed, the better".
The source said Slovakia would just organise the discussion at ministerial level and that an eventual proposal for a decision by EU leaders would be tabled by European Council president Donald Tusk.