The planned meeting of the EU Council at the level of foreign ministers will take place on February 22 in Brussels, its main topic will be the discussion of relations with Russia and the United States. A high-ranking EU foreign policy official told this at a briefing.
The contrast of discussions of relations with Moscow and Washington is expected to be enormous. The discussion about Russia will revolve around the question of what other sanctions the EU can adopt so as not to hurt itself and try to force Moscow to change its policy.
To the United States, ministers intend to propose restoration and intensification of comprehensive cooperation on all possible fronts, including in particular the containment of Russia and China, as well as the restoration of trade relations undermined under the administration of former U.S. leader Donald Trump.
Regarding Russia, the ministers intend to discuss how they want to “punish” Moscow for ignoring Brussels’ demands to release Alexei Navalny bypassing a court ruling. And also for the fact that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained and substantiated the Russian position on both the Navalny case and the EU human rights claims at a February 5 press conference in Moscow with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrel.
The press conference was broadcast for a European audience by the press service of the EU Council. Many European media and politicians considered the content and form of Lavrov’s statements to be an “insult” to Borrell personally and to the European Union as a whole. And now the foreign ministers will have to think about how they can respond, effectively taking a new step toward an escalation of political tension with Russia.
According to a source in the EU foreign policy service, several EU countries have already submitted proposals to the Council of the European Union for new sanctions against Russia “in connection with human rights violations and the Navalny case.
“We are considering restrictive measures against several Russian citizens, officials as part of the EU sanctions mechanism for human rights violations,” he said.
He also noted that the EU is not yet considering sanctions against representatives of Russian big business, which, in particular, was called for by Navalny’s supporters, because there is no sufficient legal basis for it.
“As for the Russian oligarchs, the idea of sanctions against them does not correspond to our policy. We accept sanctions in order to achieve a change in the policy of the Russian government, they are imposed against persons who are directly linked to specific decisions of the government, this requires very serious legal justification,” he said.
A separate topic will be the issue of strengthening the EU support to Russian “civil society,” that is, non-governmental organizations, leading opposition activity.
Earlier, the foreign policy chief of the EU, justifying himself in front of MEPs at a special hearing on February 9 for his visit to Russia, claimed that Russia “does not want to move towards normalizing relations with the EU.