Baltic and Eastern countries are suspicious of the proposal for a summit with Putin and see it as a concession to Moscow
It was going to be a relatively quiet summit, though
very dense in content. The first day covered practically everything. An important burden of international affairs for debate (Belarus, Turkey, Russia, Libya, Ethiopia, the Sahel), migration, the usual review of the evolution of the pandemic. And even a coordination meeting with the UN Secretary General, António Guterres.
Dense, but no major convulsions in sight, beyond the
dialectical outburst and gestures by the EU against Viktor Orban for his homophobic law. But Angela Merkel, in what is expected to be her last major European high-level appointment as Chancellor, appeared in Brussels defending the proposal to hold an EU-Russia summit in the style of the one that convened Joe Biden and Vladimir in Geneva a week ago. Putin. The day before he had moved by surprise to the level of ambassadors. The forms (everyone) and also the background (many) bothered. The German verbalized the idea during an intervention in the Bundestag just a few hours before catching the plane to Brussels. Direct dialogue with the Kremlin and “mechanisms of response to its provocations, without lack of coordination, together and united.”
The matter was not trivial. Because for months that
relationships have hit rock bottom and years – since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, which opened the deepest wound in the bilateral relationship – without meetings at the top. The clashes for freedoms and respect for human rights, the imprisonment of Alexéi Navalni, the harassment of Ukraine, the collisions with the Czech Republic or Poland … An addition and continues with a kilometer list of Russian officials and entities on the black list of sanctions . But also “close interdependence” on numerous issues (including cooperation in the fight against the pandemic) and one that directly touches Germany, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. So the suspicions were served.
When Merkel stepped on the Europa building in the community capital
influenced unity “in the face of provocations” and in the discussion of possible “new meeting formats.” But it was fleeting. He did not answer any questions. His initiative already had the support of Emmanuel Macron. The face-to-face with Putin became the ‘flag’ of the Franco-German axis and was discussed during a dinner that started after 7:30 p.m. and that at the end of this edition did not emit decisive signals.
But many leaders had already positioned themselves. Austrian Sebastian Kurz, for example,
applauded the reunion movement with Russia. “The EU cannot limit itself to seeing how the US and Russia maintain a dialogue,” he said. The Dutchman, Mark Rutte, veered in the opposite direction. With a blunt “I will not participate in a meeting with Putin”, he opposed sharing the same table, but not that “the presidents” could do so, referring to the heads of the community institutions Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen.
The Minsk agreements
But concern and doubts came from the East and the Baltic republics, in constant disagreement with Moscow. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas recalled the failed trip of the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, to Moscow at the beginning of the year and ironically spoke about the new plan under debate. «The last time all the leaders spoke about Russia, we all agreed that
it is a great threat; it has become even more aggressive. What I wonder is what has changed now, where does this proposal come from? His Lithuanian neighbor, Gitanas Nauseda, invited “to be extremely cautious and consistent.”
The draft declaration circulating at the time stressed “commitment to the five guiding principles governing EU policy towards Russia.” They all pivot on
“A basic condition”, the implementation of the Minsk agreements on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The same document invited “to move forward in line with the discussions of the European Council” which, it added, will return to this issue “at a future meeting”. In short, it was presumed a kick forward.
Borders, immigrants and Morocco
It had emerged as one of the central issues of this summit. A month ago, the issue was added to the agenda at the request of Mario Draghi when the migratory crisis opened by Morocco with Spain was still recent. The point is that the issue was debated this Thursday for less than ten minutes and was dispatched with just three conclusions that did not modify one iota those that had been handled in the draft revealed the day before.
And with a dimension, the external one, which was of particular interest to Spain, taking into account the great divergences that exist on the migration plan of Brussels. “In order to prevent loss of life and reduce pressure on European borders, mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with countries of origin and transit will be intensified, as an integral part of the external action of the European Union”, remarks in the text adopted by the leaders in Brussels.
The same includes as the last point of a total of three an already known message, which was not requested by Spain but which “is an indisputable truth that should be remembered from time to time,” diplomatic sources assured. The following: “The European Council condemns and rejects any attempt by third countries to exploit migrants for political purposes.”
A message that does not directly point to anyone but is easy to interpret: Morocco (with Spain), Belarus (with Lithuania) and Turkey (with Greece) have used the flow of migrants from their territories as an element of pressure. Avalanches or bolt; the “blackmail” already denounced on other occasions.
Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Josep Borrell Fontelles, Vladimir Putin, UN, Germany, Brussels, United States, Estonia, Europe, Moscow, Russia, Ukraine