EU Left Divided Over Future With Russia
An EU summit in Brussels this past week left many questions unanswered, and a possible rise in tensions between certain member countries. The organisation’s values and morals essentially came into question when confronting LGBT rights, and to make matters worse, a proposal made by powerhouses Germany and France was met with disapproval from other bloc members.
After outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel consulted with French President Emmanuel Macron, the two leaders decided to push a plan to engage and conduct a EU-Russia summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two presented the idea over a dinner at the EU summit, which was specifically meant to discuss EU-Russia relations.
According to news outlet Politico, other diplomats at the meeting were “blindsided- including (European) Council President Charles Michel, who controls the summit agenda.” This hopeful plan comes a week after US President Joe Biden’s meeting with Putin the week before in Geneva, Switzerland, however Merkel believes that both EU and US should play a part in mending fences with Russia.
“We as the European Union must also seek direct contact with Russia and the Russian president,” said Merkel to her country’s parliament on Thursday. “It is not enough for the US president to talk to the Russian president. I very much welcome that, but the EU must also create forums for dialogue.”
The proposition was met with fierce opposition from Central and Eastern European countries in the bloc, such as Poland and the Baltic states. This is largely due to their continual push for a hardlined response to Russia’s actions such as the annexation of Ukraine, poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and numerous instances of cyberwarfare.
“Without any positive changes in Russia’s behaviour, if we start to engage, it’ll send a very bad signal to our partners (such as Ukraine and Georgia),” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, after likening the plan to “trying to engage the bear to keep a pot of honey safe.”
One of EU’s partners, Ukraine, reacted harshly with severe criticism to the proposed Merkel-Macron plan, with its foreign minister acknowledging Putin’s lack of compliance to better Euro-Russian relations.
“Initiatives to resume EU summits with Russia without seeing any progress from the Russian side will be a dangerous deviation from EU sanctions policy,” said Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels after engaging in talks with Joseph Borrell, EU’s Foreign Policy leader.
“The decision to freeze summits between the EU and Russia was taken in 2014 against the background of the Russian aggression against Ukraine,” added Kuleba. “Unfortunately, Russia has not demonstrated any will to change its policy, neither towards Ukraine, nor towards the EU, and we believe that the resumption of summits is groundless.”
As the future of a possible summit drew into a fading idea due to intense rejection, instead resulting in a consensus to consider the possibility of imposing economic sanctions on Russia if they fail to meet EU’s wishes in ceasing its violative actions.
“Personally I would have liked to have taken a bolder step here,” said Merkel to reporters at the end of the summit on 25 June. “But it’s also good as it is, and we will continue to work on this.”
Macron however compiled a different reaction, maintaining that the important thing is to stay united as a bloc, and continued to mention he can meet with the Russian leader regardless of any summit that might be held.
“I’ll be frank, I don’t need an EU summit to see Vladimir Putin. I saw him several times as president and I’ll continue to see him,” said the French president.
“Vladimir Putin – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009” by World Economic Forum is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0