Saturday

4th Feb 2023

'Frozen conflict' looming in east Ukraine, EU diplomats say

  • EU ambassadors will hold another sanctions review at the end of October (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU countries have decided to uphold Russia sanctions for now, despite a “weakening appetite” for the measures.

The EU foreign service on Tuesday (30 September) said that “while encouraging developments have been registered in the political process and in the implementation of some aspects of the Minsk protocol, relevant parts of the same protocol will need to be properly implemented” before sanctions are lifted.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It added that if things go well, the EU will in future consider proposals “to amend, suspend or repeal the set of sanctions in force, in all or in part”.

The communique was published after a debate by EU countries’ ambassadors in Brussels.

The Minsk protocol - a Russia-Ukraine accord from 5 September - says Ukraine is to grant autonomy to rebel-held areas if pro-Russia fighters lay down their arms and surrender control of the Russia-Ukraine border.

The accord led to a halt in heavy fighting, despite occasional flare-ups, one of which saw rebels kill seven Ukrainian soldiers this week.

It also led Ukraine to pass laws on rebel self-rule and an amnesty for rebel fighters.

But Pierre Vimont, a senior diplomat from the EU foreign service, told the EU ambassadors that Russia is not keeping its side of the bargain, EU sources told this website.

He corroborated press reports that Russian troops are still on Ukrainian territory, that 75 Russian military officers are working closely with rebel chiefs, and that the border remains open, with Russia to shortly send a fourth convoy of “aid” trucks to east Ukraine without Ukrainian permission.

One EU diplomat said: “There is a lull in fighting, but the status quo is very fragile so we need extra time and we shouldn’t take any rash decisions”.

He added on the Minsk deal: “There are some points where even the greatest optimists cannot argue that Russia is in compliance”.

Another EU source said anti-sanction states - such as the Czech republic, Hungary, and Slovakia - kept quiet on Tuesday because German chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week said No to repealing the measures at this stage.

“A decision to soften the sanctions requires consensus, so there was not much point in making the argument after Merkel spoke out.”

A third EU source noted that Russia hawks, such as Lithuania, had wanted Tuesday's EU statement to also say sanctions could be increased if things don't go well. But the idea did not fly.

The contact added that sanctions-critics are biding their time until a second review of Russia policy due at the end of the month.

“The appetite for sanctions is going down,” he said.

With no sign Russia will give up Crimea or that pro-Russia rebels will give up claims to independence in east Ukraine, he predicted the EU is heading for a Georgia-type scenario.

“In the long term, we might be heading for the same situation as Abkhazia and South Ossetia - non-recognition, but re-engagement with Russia”, he said, referring to two Russia-occupied Georgian regions.

Another EU diplomat added: “The events on the ground might lead to a frozen conflict for the long term … but since the EU has said there is no military solution, we have to do what we can with the diplomatic approach".

Ukraine wary of EU's Russia gas deal

The EU is keen for Ukraine to accept a winter deal on Russian gas, but Ukraine is wary of the terms and of broader EU-Russia energy ties.

Opinion

Tackling frozen conflicts in the EU's own neighbourhood

Romania has drawn the signal that the time has come to resume the EU-level dialogue on protracted conflicts and their crippling effects on the region's security and development perspectives, writes the country's foreign minister, Bogdan Aurescu.

Opinion

Ukraine needs reform to survive

The focus in Ukraine is shifting back from war or peace to the country’s internal malaise - the time has come for real reforms.

Opinion

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think

'Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds.' Such has been the chorus since the start of the war. The problem is the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us