Thursday

7th Jul 2022

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

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

  • 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.

EU states expel over 30 Russian diplomats

France, Germany, Poland, and the US have led the largest-ever expulsion of Russian spies and diplomats in reaction to the UK chemical attack.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Danish ministers no longer allowed to delete text messages
  2. Report: British PM Johnson to resign today
  3. British PM defiant amid spate of resignations
  4. France says EU fiscal discipline rules 'obsolete'
  5. Russia claims untouchable status due to nuclear arsenal
  6. Catalan MEPs lose EU court case over recognition
  7. 39 arrested in migrant-smuggling dragnet
  8. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Is Orban holding out an olive branch to EPP?
  2. EU should freeze all EU funds to Hungary, says study
  3. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  4. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  5. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  6. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  7. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  8. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us