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25th May 2022

Macron: EU sanctions on Russia do not work

  • EU sanctions are "not an effective policy", Macron said Tuesday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The EU needs a new strategy on Russia because sanctions alone have not changed its behaviour, French president Emmanuel Macron has said.

"With Russia, the policy of progressive sanctions on frozen situations is no longer an effective policy," Macron told press after an EU summit in Brussels on Tuesday (26 May).

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"I think that we are at a moment of truth in our relationship with Russia, which should lead us to rethink the ... tension that we decide to put in place," he said.

Reacting to press questions on EU sanctions over Russia's jailing and attempted murder of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Macron added: "What would you like us to do? Do we start an armed conflict? Do we completely cut off relations? Do we go further with sanctions - but where to?", he added.

He did not say sanctions should be dropped.

But he said EU leaders had tasked the European Commission to draft more creative options on Russia relations in a report due in June.

Macron has been a leading proponent of resetting EU relations with Moscow despite its aggressive behaviour and human-rights abuses.

His so-called "strategic dialogue" with Russia has seen him hold regular phone calls with Russian president Vladimir Putin over the past 18 months or so.

Meanwhile, EU sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea will expire in June unless they are renewed for another year.

Blacklists of Russians harming Ukraine's territorial integrity more broadly speaking expire in September unless renewed.

Navalny's supporters in the West have said the EU measures would be more effective if they targeted pro-Kremlin oligarchs who kept their money in Europe, instead of Kremlin officials.

Germany's willingness to complete a gas pipeline with Russia, called Nord Stream 2, despite everything, has also weakened the EU position, they said.

And for her part, German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has defended the pipeline, struck a similar note to Macron on Tuesday.

"You can have different opinions and still talk and meet ... Diplomacy only has a chance if you talk to one another," she said on EU-Russia ties.

She welcomed the fact US president Joe Biden will hold a summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva in June.

Belarus hijacking

She also pledged to ask Putin if Russia had anything to do with Belarus' airplane hijacking on Sunday, amid speculation that Minsk could not have done so without Moscow's say-so.

"Yesterday, we [EU leaders] had no verified information about Russia's role [in the hijacking], so we refrained from saying anything on that matter. If I speak with the Russian president, obviously, this topic will be on the agenda," she said.

The leaders voiced solidarity with the Czech Republic over recent revelations a Russian bomb there killed two people in 2014.

But they did not announce any solidarity measures, such as diplomatic expulsions.

Leaders also voiced commitment to their previous "guiding principles" on Russia, which include diplomatic outreach in areas of joint interest, such as nuclear non-proliferation.

"Many attempts on our side over many, many years, almost decades to improve [the] relationship with Russia did not have [the] success they deserved," commission president Ursula von der Leyen also said after the summit.

Her June report will set out "different policy options that will show how we can deal with Russia", she noted.

"What we see today is an economy that is lacking an enormous amount of modernisation that would be necessary, an economy that is highly depending on energy revenues, but a regime that is not willing to interact in a constructive way with us," she said.

China

The EU recently also imposed its first sanctions on China since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

It did so over what some Western parliaments have called China's "genocide" of its Uighur Muslim minority.

But Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday the sanctions "will lead nowhere".

"Our European friends know what is genocide," Wang said at a video-conference hosted by German think-tank the Munich Security Conference, referring to the Holocaust.

The EU sanctions reminded Chinese people "of the days when they were bullied by European imperialists," he added.

"As the Chinese government, we have our sovereignty to uphold. We have our national dignity to uphold ... We have to push back," Wang said, referring to Chinese counter-sanctions on MEPs and EU officials, which led to the collapse of an EU-China business treaty.

Macron gloomy on rule of law after meeting Orbán

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France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

Opinion

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

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