After Poland and the Baltic states stated that they would send a wrong message as relations between East and West deteriorated, EU leaders failed to agree on France and Germany’s proposal to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as soon as possible.
After U.S. President Joe Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16, French President Emmanuel Macron stated that the first EU summit with Putin since January 2014 will be “a A dialogue to defend our interests”. He insisted that the EU can not only respond in diplomacy with Russia.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier on Friday (June 25) that after the late-night talks at the Brussels meeting, 27 EU leaders had failed to reach an agreement.
“This is a very comprehensive discussion, not easy,” she told reporters. “There was no agreement today to hold an immediate leadership meeting,” she said.
The EU-Russia summit ended after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and imposed sanctions by the West in March 2014.
Although Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz expressed his support for the Franco-German proposal, many other leaders expressed opposition.
Kurtz is the only EU prime minister to speak at the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which made the Russian host very happy.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said after the meeting that not changing his position on Russia is “the common position of many leaders.” He said earlier that the idea was like “trying to contact a bear to keep a jar of honey safe.”
Latvian Prime Minister Kris Yanis Kalins stated that although diplomacy failed to end the conflict between eastern Ukraine and Russia-backed separatists, the European Union risked rewarding Russia through the summit.
On the contrary, if Moscow continues to implement what the EU says is Russia’s policies of false information, cyber and secret attacks, and attempts to split the EU, EU leaders will return to familiar positions and warn of more sanctions against Moscow.
Russia denies any wrongdoing.
In the summit statement, the leaders called on the European Commission and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell to “propose additional restrictive measures against Russia, including economic sanctions.”
The European Union imposed sanctions on Russia’s energy, financial and weapons sectors, and imposed individual sanctions on Russians accused of human rights violations and the use of prohibited chemical weapons.
Diplomats said that further sanctions could target Russia’s money laundering activities or powerful oligarchs suspected of serious corruption abroad, as the non-EU member United Kingdom first took in April.
Macron tried to seek a cold relationship with Putin in September 2019, but failed. The outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Putin in Moscow in January 2020. Putin had a phone conversation with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, who is the chairman of the EU summit in June this year.
France and Germany hope to cooperate with Russia to tackle climate change and find a way to stabilize relations. Even if the summit did not take place, Merkel said: “will explore… the form in which dialogue can be started.”
After Borel was publicly humiliated by the Kremlin in February, many EU countries worried that the Kremlin did not take the EU seriously. During Borel’s visit to Moscow, Russia expelled EU diplomats without warning.
Lithuania’s Nauseda said: “We should be very cautious. This is not like the relationship between Russia and the United States.”
Although France is a nuclear power, the EU relies on NATO for territorial defense and makes decisions among 27 countries, making it easier for the Kremlin to take advantage of differences.
The Kremlin earlier welcomed the idea of the summit, saying that both Brussels and Moscow need dialogue, although Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he wanted more details.
In the confrontation between Ukraine and Belarus, the EU and Russia accused each other of threats to security and stability from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
The European Union imposed economic sanctions on Belarus on Thursday. Belarus is an ally of Russia and the Kremlin regards it as a buffer state between Russia and NATO.