EU leaders reject Franco-German Russian summit plan

In the early hours of today (25 June) EU leaders concluded the first day of the summer European Council. Discussions on Russia ended at two in the morning following a lively exchange.

In the early hours of today (25 June) EU leaders concluded the first day of the summer European Council. Discussions on Russia ended at two in the morning following a lively exchange.

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It was clear yesterday morning that a proposal for an EU-Russia summit put forward by the French and Germans had upset many leaders, especially those from the Baltic states. Arriving at the summit, Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Karins said: “The concern that I have as the Prime Minister of Latvia is that if we want to open up a dialogue as European leaders with Russia, we need certain steps also coming from the Russian direction. The dialogue fell apart in 2014, with the illegal annexation of Crimea, there is ongoing warfare in the Donbass area. These are the issues that need to be addressed and then we can speak with Russia.”

He went on to say that the Kremlin understands power politics and that any concessions would be seen as weakness: “Europeans need to speak with a strong single voice.” However, leaders who opposed a summit were also open to a discussion, but said that it should be postponed to the autumn and that any real decisions should be taken then.

Following the meeting, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said: “There will be no meetings at the European Union leaders level with Russia, we see that the situation of our relations with Russia as deteriorating, we see new aggressive forms of behaviour from Russia,” Nauseda said that the EU bore particular responsibility vis-a-vie Europe’s Eastern partner countries.”

Nauseda was willing to keep the door open for any future dialogue, but said that he hadn’t seen any radical changes in Putin’s behaviour and said that engagement should only take place with preconditions and clear redlines.

EUCO conclusions on Russia

In line with its conclusions of 24-25 May 2021, the European Council discussed relations with Russia, taking into account the report by the High Representative and the Commission.

The European Union is committed to a united, long-term, and strategic European approach based on the five guiding principles. The European Council invites the Council, the Commission and the High Representative to continue to implement them fully, with due regard to the European Union’s values, principles and interests.

The European Council expects the Russian leadership to demonstrate a more constructive engagement and political commitment and stop actions against the EU and its Member States, as well as against third countries.

The European Council calls on Russia to fully assume its responsibility in ensuring the full implementation of the Minsk agreements as the key condition for any substantial change in the EU’s stance.

Regarding the strengthening of our resilience, the European Council stresses the need for a firm and coordinated response by the EU and its Member States to any further malign, illegal and disruptive activity by Russia, making full use of all instruments at the EU’s disposal, and ensuring coordination with partners. To this end, the European Council also invites the Commission and the High Representative to present options for additional restrictive measures, including economic sanctions.

The European Council stresses the need to further deepen and intensify political, economic and people-to-people ties and cooperation with the Eastern Partners with a view to increasing their resilience. In this context, it recalls the 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit declaration which acknowledges the European aspirations and European choice of the Eastern Partners concerned, as stated in the Association Agreements, and in the context of their entry into force. It also underlines its commitment to deepening relations with Central Asia.

The European Council reiterates the European Union’s openness to a selective engagement with Russia in areas of EU interest. It invites the Commission and the High Representative to develop concrete options including conditionalities and leverages in this regard, with a view to their consideration by the Council, on topics such as climate and the environment, health, as well as selected issues of foreign and security policy and multilateral issues such as the JCPoA, Syria and Libya. In this context, the European Council will explore formats and conditionalities of dialogue with Russia.

32. The European Council condemns the limitations on fundamental freedoms in Russia and the shrinking space for civil society. It stresses the need for people-to-people contacts and continued EU support to Russian civil society, human rights organisations and independent media. It invites the Commission and the High Representative to put forward proposals in this regard.

33. The European Council reiterates its full support for all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability for the victims of the downing of MH17 and their next of kin and calls on all States to cooperate fully with the ongoing legal case.

34. The European Council will come back to this issue, assess implementation and provide further guidance as necessary.”

The author: Michel THEYS

Michel Theys, a Belgian native, began his career as a civil servant, serving the public for several decades. After retirement, he shifted gears to follow his passion for journalism. With a background in public administration, Theys brought a unique perspective to his reporting. His insightful articles, covering a wide array of topics, swiftly gained recognition. Today, Michel Theys is a respected journalist known for his balanced and thoughtful reporting in the Belgian media landscape.

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