Thursday

17th Jan 2019

UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions

  • EU has urged its companies to ignore the threat of US sanctions if they do business with Iran (Photo: European Commission)

The UK is to call for extra EU sanctions on Russia, in a move that risks highlighting both EU and transatlantic foreign policy divisions.

"Today the United Kingdom asks its allies to go further by calling on the European Union to ensure its sanctions against Russia are comprehensive, and that we truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the US," British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt aims to say in a speech in Washington on Tuesday (21 August), details of which were released to press ahead of his trip.

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.

... or join as a group

  • Hunt took up his post in July after his predecessor, Boris Johnson, resigned in a Brexit dispute with the British prime minister (Photo: NHS Confederation)

"That means calling out and responding to transgressions with one voice whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea," he plans to add, referring to Russia's use of a chemical weapon to try to kill a former spy in Salisbury, England, in March, and its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

"Those who do not share our values need to know that there will always be a serious price to pay if red lines are crossed - whether territorial incursions, the use of banned weapons or, increasingly, cyber-attacks," he also aims to say, referring to Russian hacks and leaks, which were designed to sway elections in the US, France, and Germany in the past two years.

Russia is behaving in a "malign" way and is making the world "a more dangerous place", his speech notes, while the once "rock-solid" transatlantic alliance could be undermined if the EU does not act in concert with the US, it adds.

Hunt's intervention comes after the US curbed exports of high-tech products to Russia and expelled Russian diplomats over the Salisbury attack.

It is planning to further tighten economic cooperation if Moscow does not give assurances that it will not use chemical weapons again, despite warm personal relations between US leader Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Populist advent

For its part, the EU has imposed economic sanctions and blacklists on Russia over Ukraine. Most EU states also expelled Russian diplomats after the Salisbury incident.

But Hunt's appeal for EU solidarity risks falling on deaf ears as Britain prepares to leave the bloc next March amid increasingly acrimonious negotiations, weakening its voice in the European arena.

The EU recently rolled over its Ukraine-related Russia sanctions.

But the advent of populist, pro-Russian governments in Austria and Italy, as well as further afield in Europe, some of whom have called for existing sanctions to be lifted, makes it even less likely that Britain's appeal will galvanise an EU consensus to step up action.

Anti-US solidarity

At the same time, Hunt's reference to the "rock-solid" EU-US alliance glosses over Trump's discord with America's oldest allies.

His insults against German leader Angela Merkel aside, the US president has threatened to fine EU firms taking part in a Russian-German pipeline project and has imposed tariffs on EU exports of steel and aluminium.

That prompted Merkel and Putin to instead voice solidarity against US interference in Germany's energy policy and his assault on international trade norms in a meeting on Saturday.

Trump's decision to walk away from a nuclear arms control deal on Iran, backed by the EU and Russia, prompted further anti-US solidarity by Berlin and Moscow.

The EU has urged its companies to ignore the threat of US sanctions if they do business with Iran in line with the arms control agreement.

But French energy firm Total has dropped plans to invest in Iranian gas fields.

French and German carmakers PSA, Renault, and Daimler, as well as German train and telecoms firms Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom are also planning to walk away from investments under American duress.

Brexit risk

Hunt's US speech, which marks his international debut following his recent elevation to the post, is to reference the risk of a Brexit rift by urging the EU to give the UK what it wants in terms of special trade perks.

"The risk of a messy divorce, as opposed to the friendship we seek, would be a fissure in relations between European allies that would take a generation to heal," he aims to say.

Russian hackers and trolls stand accused of having helped the pro-Brexit camp in Britain's 2016 referendum, of having helped Trump to win the US elections later the same year, and of having given a boost to far-right parties in Europe.

But the British minister is preparing to blame economic inequalities for the rise of populism on both sides of the Atlantic, minimising Moscow's role in the trend despite his sanctions appeal.

"We are putting our heads in the sand if we blame social media by pretending that some of the causes of that [anti-establishment] resentment are not real - whether caused by the decline in real incomes for many Americans and Europeans, dislocation caused by changes in technology or the identity concerns of many voters caused by immigration," he plans to say.

Analysis

From Russia (to Austria) with love?

The presence of the Russian president at the wedding of the Austrian foreign minister risks to undermine Austria's efforts to act as bridge builder between East and West.

News in Brief

  1. British PM scrapes through no confidence vote
  2. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  3. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  4. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  5. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  6. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  7. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  8. German economy hit by global economic turbulence

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  2. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  3. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  4. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  5. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  6. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  7. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  8. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us