European Union leaders on Friday rejected a Franco-German proposal to hold a summit with Russia after Poland and Baltic countries said it would send the wrong message as East-West ties deteriorate, according to Reuters.
After U.S. President Joe Biden met Putin in Geneva on June 16, French President Emmanuel Macron said a first EU summit with Putin since January 2014 would be “a dialogue to defend our interests”. He explained that the EU must be proactive in its diplomacy with Russia.
“The late-night talks at a Brussels summit failed to secure an agreement,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel
France and Germany want to be able to work with Russia on combating climate change and to find ways to stabilise relations. Merkel said that, even without a summit, “formats will be explored … under which dialogues can be started”.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he had supported the summit proposal, but many other leaders were opposed, and Russia’s direct neighbours were the most vocal.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters that Putin must stop “aggressive” policies against its neighbours and that there could be no summit while Moscow held Crimea, annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and sided with separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the idea was like “trying to engage the bear to keep a pot of honey safe”, and Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said Russia might see a summit as a reward when diplomacy had failed to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin said it was committed to improving ties with the EU, Russia’s biggest foreign investor and a big oil and gas customer, and Russia’s foreign ministry said the EU was being thwarted by an aggressive minority.
“In general, President Putin was and remains interested in improving working relations between Moscow and Brussels,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “The European position is fragmented, not always consistent and sometimes unclear.”
The failure of the initiative underscores the contradictory pressures faced by the EU, which says it will never recognise Crimea as Russian territory and has accused Moscow of covert operations to try to undermine its democracies.
At the event, the EU leaders fell back to a familiar position. In a statement, they called on the European Commission and the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell “to present options for additional restrictive measures, including economic sanctions”.