Friday, February 26, 2021

Navalny case: The EU balancing act between sanctions and dialogue


The EU is preparing new sanctions against Russia because of the condemnation of the Russian opposition leader Navalny. Austria also supports this. The visit of the EU foreign affairs representative Borrell causes aftermath.

Because of the action against the Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny, the EU wants to initiate further sanctions against Russia. The foreign ministers of the EU states are in favor of starting the necessary preparations for the punitive measures, said several diplomats.

Before the meeting in Brussels, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and several of his EU colleagues spoke out on Monday in favor of preparing punitive measures. At the same time, however, you advocated that the dialogue with Moscow should not be broken off.

“I expect a green light today at the political level for further sanctions against Russia, against persons in the judicial system, in the police apparatus, who are directly responsible for dealing with it,” said Austrian Foreign Minister Schallenberg before the meeting with his EU – Official colleagues in Brussels.

He does not believe that sanctions against Russia are “toothless”. If that were the case, Moscow would not respond with threats, Schallenberg told journalists. On the one hand they try to bring about a “change in behavior” with sanctions, on the other hand they send a “clear signal that we reject a measure, a policy”.

Judgment against Navalny new cause for sanctions

Maas pointed out that the EU reacted with sanctions after Navalny was poisoned in the summer. The member states have made it clear that they are not prepared to “accept the breach of international law”. Now it is about the fact that Navalny was sentenced to a prison term in a prison camp after his return to Russia.

According to diplomats, the foreign ministers want to take a fundamental political decision on new sanctions. Specifically, the punitive measures should only be worked out later. The EU wants to use its new sanctions regime to violate human rights for the first time, said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde in Brussels. Those affected would be punished with entry bans and the freezing of their assets in the EU.

Borrell’s visit to Russia “basically correct”

Regarding the controversial visit by the EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell, Schallenberg said: “Basically, I believe that it was right to continue the dialogue and go to Moscow.” With a view to the expulsion of three EU diplomats during the visit, he sharply criticized Moscow. “This is not a deal with partners with whom you have a close relationship, and that will certainly have consequences, also in terms of the sanctions steps I advocate.”

Navalny himself and the European Parliament had demanded that the EU also put oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin on the sanctions list. However, this is considered unlikely. In Brussels it is pointed out that sanction decisions must withstand a challenge in court and that direct responsibility of oligarchs for the imprisonment of Navalny can hardly be proven.

It is clear that relations with Moscow “have certainly hit rock bottom,” said Maas. But he continued to plead for a dialogue. “We need Russia to resolve many international conflicts,” he said.

The second big topic will be the Iran Agreement

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn referred to efforts to persuade the US to return to the nuclear deal with Iran. If even Washington and Tehran move closer to each other again, it must also be possible for the EU and Moscow to have “a normal dialogue”, he said.

It is clear “that Russia is on a course of confrontation with the European Union,” said EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell. He had traveled to Moscow in early February. During his visit, the Russian government expelled three diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden for allegedly participating in protests in support of Navalny. The EU saw this as an unprecedented affront and Borrell’s visit as a humiliation of its chief diplomat.

(APA / AFP)



#Navalny #case #balancing #act #sanctions #dialogue

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