Relations between the European Union and Russia are in a “negative spiral”, declared Wednesday (10) the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, during the launch of a foreign policy strategy towards screw of the rival country. According to the principal person in charge of the foreign policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, the approach rests on three actions: “to withdraw, contain and engage”.
The announcement, which responds to “the Russian government’s deliberate political choices,” according to von der Leyen, came as Russian President Vladimir Putin and American Joe Biden were settling their differences in Switzerland.
European leaders say the situation will only get worse as Russia seeks to undermine EU interests through cyber warfare and disinformation campaigns. The bloc is exploring ways to “impose costs” on those who coordinate attacks on the Internet, although it is not easy to identify the origin of these actions.
According to Borrell, the possibility of cooperation on political or economic issues “is a distant prospect.” The Foreign Affairs representative believes, however, that over the next decade European environmental policies should shift the balance of power between the EU and the Russians, making the bloc less dependent on fossil fuels – Russia is now the main supplier of gas to Russia. the EU and one of the biggest oil exporters.
An energy mix with more renewable sources would make the shift more favorable to Europe, which is the main trading partner, buying 144 billion euros (873 billion BRL) of Russian products in 2019. Russia, in turn, is the fifth largest destination in the EU. exports: 88 billion euros (533.4 billion RR $).
The report – prepared by the European Commission and the European External Action Service (equivalent to Itamaraty) – proposes to step up the fight against corruption and money laundering in order to put pressure on Russia to do so. respects international law and human rights.
He also suggests creating new tools and retaliatory measures to prevent Russia from sanctioning European companies operating in its territory and supporting Eastern European countries vulnerable to its rival neighbor, through structural reforms and investments.
Borrell said that despite pessimistic expectations, there is a need to try to get closer to Russia on issues such as combating the coronavirus and climate change, conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan, operations against terrorism and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
He did not rule out further sanctions against Russian institutions and individuals, but said he hoped he would not have to use them. “Sanctions are not policies in themselves, but instruments in the service of policies, which should only be adopted when they are effective and necessary.
“Our ambition must be to explore the ways that gradually evolve the current scenario towards a more predictable and stable relationship”, specifies the document, which will be analyzed by the European Council (which brings together the leaders of the 27 countries) at the end of this month.
The positions of member states are quite varied, with countries bordering Russia — Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia — calling for stricter measures, while Germany is on the verge of ” inaugurate the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which brings Russian fuel to its industry. France, for its part, asks Europe to delimit more clearly the limits which it will not tolerate being exceeded.
Relations between the EU and Russia deteriorated significantly after the annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in 2014 and Russian actions in eastern Ukraine. The European bloc has imposed sectoral sanctions on finance, energy and defense, as well as certain technological fields, and has closed its market to certain Russian banks and companies.
The arms trade with Russia is prohibited, travel is prohibited, and the assets of 177 people and 48 entities are frozen. High-level and cooperation meetings remain suspended, pending Russia to follow what was established in the pact signed in Minsk in 2015.
In recent months, a new round of sanctions has been adopted after the poisoning of Russian opponent Alexei Navalni, as well as former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and six people and two entities have been sanctioned in connection with cyber attacks.
Bilateral relations also have frictions resulting from Russian actions in Eastern Europe, Syria and Libya. On the other hand, Russian students are the main beneficiaries of the Erasmus student exchange program, and more than 4 million entry visas for Russian citizens were issued in 2019.