Thursday

21st Jun 2018

Russia's EU friends decline to expel diplomats

  • Kurz with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow in February (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Eleven EU countries have so far failed to join the others in expelling Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK.

The list as of Tuesday (27 March) included Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • Maltese PM Joseph Muscat has made hundreds of millions from sales of EU passports to Russians (Photo: PES Communications)

Some of them are likely to join the EU mainstream in the next few days.

Belgium is still weighing up who to target from the 140 Russian diplomats accredited to Russia's bilateral mission to the country as well as its EU and Nato embassies.

The Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, promised on Monday to "take appropriate action" to "show solidarity with our closest neighbour" later on Tuesday.

The Slovak foreign ministry said: "The development of the situation, as well as Russia's response to the calls addressed to it by the EU countries - including Slovakia - will influence the next steps that we are prepared to consider in this case".

Portugal does not plan to expel anyone, saying it preferred action at the level of the EU28, instead of making bilateral moves or joining EU sub-groups.

"Portugal believes that coordination at the European Union level is the most effective means to respond to the gravity of the current situation," its foreign ministry said on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the Luxembourg foreign ministry told EUobserver: "Our government first wants to await the conclusions of the OPCW's analysis", referring to an international body on chemical warfare that is investigating the UK incident.

"There are only a few Russian diplomats in Luxembourg, with no proof that any of them are involved in spying activities," she added.

"Luxembourg has currently two diplomats in Moscow. If Luxembourg would expel two Russian diplomats, and Russia would expel two Luxembourg diplomat as a retaliatory measure, our embassy in Moscow would be closed … as our government always favoured to maintain a dialogue with Russia, that would then become very difficult," she said.

Friends of Russia

Other EU states, who have a history of strong ties with Moscow, have also said they do not intend to expel Russian diplomats despite having signed up to an EU statement blaming Russia for a chemical weapon attack in England earlier this month.

"We will not take any national measures," Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz and foreign minister Karin Kneissl said in a joint statement.

"Indeed, we want to keep the channels of communication to Russia open. Austria is a neutral country and sees itself as a bridge-builder between East and West," they said.

The Austrian ruling coalition contains the far-right Freedom Party, which has signed a cooperation agreement with the ruling United Russia party in Moscow.

The Maltese government, which has made hundreds of millions of euros from selling EU passports to wealthy Russians, echoed Luxembourg.

It said in a statement: "We are not doing so ourselves [expelling Russian diplomats] because our diplomatic mission in Moscow is very small and any response by Russia would effectively terminate diplomatic relations."

"This operational decision does not reduce our support for the UK and our security partners", it said.

Bulgaria, which has strong business ties with Russian firms, cited the fact it is holding the rotating EU presidency as a need to maintain neutrality.

Greece, where the ruling coalition also contains a pro-Russian far-right party, called Anel, said previously it would never sanction a member of the UN permanent security council and that it wanted to see more evidence on what had happened in the UK.

Its foreign ministry declined to comment to EUobserver on Tuesday.

Russian money

Cyprus, whose banks hold billions of euros in Russian capital and which has also been selling EU passports to wealthy Russians, followed Greece.

Slovenian foreign minister Karl Erjavec, who hosted Russia's foreign minister in February to try to boost business ties, said on Monday that it was too soon to decide on action because it must be first determined what exactly had happened in the UK.

The group of Russia-friendly EU states normally includes Hungary, which is planning to build a nuclear power plant with Russia.

But Budapest opted to expel one Russian diplomat anyway, joining the other 15 EU states who expelled 31 diplomats in total, and the UK itself, which expelled 23 of them.

Opinion

Europe could lose out in North Korean bonanza

South Korean businesses including Hyundai and Samsung are already scoping investment opportunities. Will North Korea become a 'new Vietnam' opportunity - or more like Myanmar, where slow Brussels policy-making meant EU exporters lost out.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us