Sunday

25th Jun 2017

Italy shields Russia from EU sanctions threat

  • Renzi did not think "that the difficult situation in Syria could be solved by additional sanctions" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Italy has shielded Russia and Syria from a threat of new sanctions, amid warnings by some leaders that Russia was trying to “weaken” the EU.

Leaders said in a joint statement in Brussels on Thursday (20 October) that: “The EU is considering all available options, should the current atrocities [in Syria] continue.”

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Merkel: "If human rights violations continue, we need to envisage all ways to respond" (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

They also urged “the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia” to “bring the atrocities to an end”, referring to Russian and Syrian airstrikes on the city of Aleppo in Syria that have caused severe civilian casualties.

Germany, France, and the UK had wanted to threaten sanctions more explicitly.

“The EU is considering all options, including further restrictive measures targeting individuals and entities supporting the regime, should the current atrocities continue”, they had suggested saying.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi led the opposition, also shared by some other states, to the “restrictive measures” threat, diplomats said.

He said while leaving the summit that “if we want to speak with Russia, then we have to leave the door open”.

He also said he did not think “that the difficult situation in Syria could be solved by additional sanctions on Russia”.

The French and German leaders had on Wednesday in Berlin tried to convince Russian president Vladimir Putin to stop the bombing.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said after Thursday's EU summit that there was “broad agreement” that if the bombing continued then the EU would consider sanctions.

“If human rights violations continue, we need to envisage all ways to respond, not excluding any possible measures”, she said.

French president Francois Hollande said: “If there were new massacres and bombings, we would have to sanction first certain Syrian officials. Russia would expose itself if it continued its bombing to a response that the EU would have to discuss, but we're not there yet”.

"There were no sanctions tonight, only the will that the truce [in Aleppo] should be extended and that all options can be considered if bombing went on,” he added.

The EU has already imposed blacklists on Syria, as well as blacklists and economic sanctions on Russia for its attack on Ukraine.

Russia ‘weakening’ EU

Renzi had, prior to the summit, called for a broad debate on Russia relations.

Summing up that discussion, EU Council head Donald Tusk said: “Leaders emphasised all sorts of concerns, from [Russia’s] airspace violations, to its disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, its interference in the electoral processes of the EU and beyond, hybrid tools in the Western Balkans, and developments in the MH17 investigation”.

Hybrid warfare is a phrase coined by Russia for a mix of propaganda, economic, and covert military operations.

MH17 was a civilian flight shot down using a Russian weapon from a Russia-controlled location in Ukraine two years ago, with Russia trying to obstruct an international investigation into the incident.

“It’s clear that Russia’s strategy is to weaken the EU. We have a sober assessment of the issues and no illusions,” Tusk said.

“Increasing tensions with Russia is not our aim, we are simply reacting to steps taken by Russia,” he added.

Merkel and Hollande voiced concern about violence in east Ukraine.

Merkel said: “There is a desire to have good cooperation with Russia, we are part of the same landmass, but we are aware that the way Russia perceives itself now, it's not suited to be described as being in the spirit of partnership”.

Dutch question

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, also updated leaders on his plans for handling the referendum on Ukraine.

Dutch people, in April, rejected the EU’s free-trade and political association pact with Ukraine in a non-binding vote.

The treaty is central to Ukraine’s realignment to the West, but unless Rutte can find a way to accommodate voters and MPs’ concerns, his hands are effectively tied on ratification.

Last month, the Dutch parliament adopted a resolution demanding Rutte's final decision by 1 November.

He has proposed to ratify it after adding a declaration signed by EU leaders that would say the treaty does not mean Ukraine would join the EU.

It would also say the Netherlands would not pay extra money to Ukraine and that the Dutch could opt out of military cooperation.

Diplomats said EU leaders and Ukraine could agree to the Dutch protocol, but Rutte lacked a majority in the Dutch senate.

Most EU states have already ratified the Ukraine treaty, which is being provisionally applied. It could keep on being applied if member states voted to do so despite the Dutch vote.

EU shames Russia on Aleppo 'massacre'

The EU has named Russia as being partly responsible for a “massacre” of “historic” proportions in Syria, but ruled out extra sanctions or military force.

Column / Crude World

The Kremlin's money problems

Behind Putin’s bluster, the Russian president is keen to see sanctions lifted because his country's economy is bleeding badly.

Interview

EU visa waiver unlikely to import Ukraine crime

Visa-free travel, which began last week, unlikely to prompt a Ukrainian crime wave, an EU police expert has said, but Ukraine itself is seeing increases in lawlessness.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement