Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

Macron to tell Putin EU sanctions to stay

  • Versailles setting will "suit" Putin, a former Hollande aide said (Photo: PRONinara)

The new French leader aims to tell the Russian president he wants political solutions in Syria and Ukraine, but that EU sanctions on Russia are to stay in place.

That was the message that French president Emmanuel Macron gave to press following the G7 summit in Italy on Saturday (27 May).

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

  • Macron and Merkel have voiced a tough and united line on Russia (Photo: elysee.fr)

“I’ll have an exacting dialogue with Russia, but we do need a dialogue despite everything … especially on the issue of Syria”, he said.

“We must talk to Russia to change the framework for getting out of the military crisis … to build a political solution”.

Macron noted that the G7 - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US - had agreed that economic sanctions on Russia should stay in place until Putin stopped the war in east Ukraine.

“I respect those principles and I will continue to support them”, the French leader said.

He said he wanted to take part in talks on Ukraine in the so-called Normandy format - with German, Russian, and Ukrainian leaders - as “soon as possible”.

EU states and the new US leader, Donald Trump, fell out over climate change and defence budgets last week, but Macron said transatlantic disunity should not be blown out of proportion.

The G7 talks and a prior Nato summit in Brussels last week “reaffirmed the solidarity” of “the world’s great democracies and economic powers” on foreign policy issues such as Syria and Ukraine, the French leader said.

Macron spoke prior to meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin for the first time on Monday.

Man to man

The two men are to hold one-on-one talks for an hour and 15 minutes as well as a 45-minute long working dinner at the Versailles palace complex near Paris.

It will be the first time Putin is to hold bilateral talks with a French leader since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.

The meeting also comes after Putin tried and failed to help Macron’s rival, French far-right politician Marine Le Pen, to win the French election earlier this month.

The event is likely to be watched for its body language after Macron said that his tug-of-war handshake with Trump in Brussels last week was designed to show that France would not give way even on “little” things.

The Macron-Putin meeting will be heavy in historical symbolism as well.

The Versailles venue is hosting an exhibition to mark 300 years since the visit of Russian tsar Peter the Great to French king Louis XV.

The tsar at the time picked up the king, who was seven years old, in his arms, but Christophe Castaner, a Macron aide, said Putin, a 64-year old veteran of world affairs, should not expect to humble the younger Macron, who is 39.

“I’m confident [Macron] will take a strong position”, Castaner told French radio at the weekend.

“It’s all the more important since some may think this young man doesn’t have the stature of a president of the republic and isn’t up to defending France”.

Kremlin agenda

Yury Ushakov, a Kremlin aide, said last Friday that the main aim of the Macron-Putin meeting would be for the two men to get “acquainted”.

Ushakov noted that France has had one of the “toughest” attitudes in Europe on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally whom France has said must step down and face justice for war crimes.

Ushakov also noted that "trade turnover [between France and Russia] has halved over the past three years from over $22 billion [€20b] to over $13 billion”, due to EU sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions.

He said that 180 French businessmen planned to attend an economic forum in Russia next week.

Alexander Orlov, Russia’s ambassador to France, told French media last week that Macron was “very intelligent, realistic, and pragmatic” as well as “free from ideology”.

Irony

Jacques Audibert, a former aide to Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, said Putin would “like” the imperial pomp of the Versailles venue.

“It adds a bit of grandeur”, Audibert told the CNews TV broadcaster.

Kadri Liik, an Estonian expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, a London-based think-tank, said it was an “irony” the Russian tsar went to France to mark a pivot to Europe, while Putin was going there “at a time when Moscow loudly promotes its ‘pivot to Eurasia’ in terms that suggest the unravelling of Peter the Great’s legacy of Russia’s European identity”.

The OSCE, an international monitoring group, recorded more than 230 explosions in the Donetsk area of east Ukraine on the eve of Putin’s trip to France.

Ukraine aside, Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO, urged Macron to also challenge Putin on his increasingly totalitarian rule in Russia.

The Versailles meeting will “give direction to the agenda for Franco-Russian relations for years to come, but the question is how firmly rights will be embedded in it”, the NGO’s Benedicte Jeannerod said.

Macron and Putin hold uneasy first talks

French and Russian leaders agreed to "strengthen" ties at their first meeting, but exchanged jabs about Russian efforts to influence French elections.

Feature

Colonisers speak - 60 years after Congo's independence

Belgium is in the midst of a nationwide reassessment of its colonial past. Under pressure from a younger, more activist, generation and a growing African diaspora, the former colonial power has taken some steps over the past year.

Leftist MEPs call on EU to address crisis in Chile

A total of 48 MEPs from GUE/NGL, the Greens and the Socialists have demanded the EU to comply with the democracy clause of the EU-Chile agreement to ensure that Chile respects fundamental rights.

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

Latest News

  1. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  2. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president
  3. Don't lead Europe by triggering its fears
  4. Finland: EU 'not brain dead' on enlargement
  5. The labour market is not ready for the future
  6. Parliament should have 'initiation' role
  7. AI skewed to young, male, and western EU, report warns
  8. US and EU go separate ways on Israeli settlers

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