EU Hardliners Sabotage Initiative for an EU-Russia Summit

In the early morning hours of June 25, the Franco-German proposal for an EU summit with Russian President Putin was shot down, mainly by Poland and the Baltic countries. The proposal had just been made public on June 23, apparently to
the surprise of most of the other EU member states. Angela Merkel explained the next day, in a speech to the Bundestag, that while she welcomed President Biden’s summit with Vladi mir Putin, “the EU must also create formats for talks”, adding that “there is no other way to resolve conflicts”.

Poland and the three Baltic countries do not agree. The final statement of the EU summit, which was not hammered out until 2am, nonetheless papered over the open divide on Russia with new demands Threatening new economic sanctions should Moscow persist in “malign, illegal and disruptive activity.” the statement read: “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.”

After the defeat of Chancellor Merkel’s joint initiative with Emmanuel Macron, she told reporters “I personally would have wished for a more courageous step but this is also OK and we’ll keep working.” In response to the EU communique, Russia’s foreign ministry noted that Europe had been “held hostage by hardliners”.

The question now is: what will France and Germany do, given the defeat of their proposal for dialogue with Russia. President Macron in particular would do well to conclude that France should pursue diplomacy independently with Russia, especially since no major initiatives are to be expected from the outgoing German Chancellor. However, if the new Chancellor elected in September is the CDU candidate Armin Laschet, which seems likely at this point, he is reportedly much more open than Angela Merkel to reviving cooperation with Russia.

Emmanuel Macron should stick to what he already said after the EU Summit on May 26, telling reporters: “With Russia, the policy of progressive sanctions on frozen situations is no longer an effective policy… I think that we are at a moment of truth in our relationship with Russia, which should lead us to rethink the terms of the tension that we decide to put in place.”

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