Is there a new EU approach toward Russia?

 The Merkel-Putin meeting can perhaps be the beginning of more constructive discussions, to be followed at the July G20 Summit in Hamburg
The Merkel-Putin meeting can perhaps be the beginning of more constructive discussions, to be followed at the July G20 Summit in Hamburg

Tomorrow, Vladimir Putin will hold talks with the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, in Sochi. According to the Kremlin, the leaders will discuss the current state and prospects of the bilateral relations, including cooperation in the energy, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian spheres; the key international problems, including the fight against terrorism, situation in the Middle East, the implementation of the Minsk agreements and the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. The leaders will also exchange views on the eve of the upcoming July G-20 summit in Hamburg. As Global Times reminds in its article Is there a new EU approach toward Russia? it is the first time Merkel is visiting Russia in two years. Political relations between the EU - mainly Germany - and Russia have been deteriorating since the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis at the end of 2013 and entered a phase of serious crisis after the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014. 

European sanctions on Russia in parallel with the Russian embargo on some European products led to new rounds of disagreements. The West - under the guidance of former US president Barack Obama - endeavored to isolate Moscow. The suspension of Russia from the G8 was a characteristic example. Putin responded by aggressively pushing forward his pro-Assad policy in Syria and by strengthening ties with non-Western countries, including China. Some analysts subsequently drew parallels with the Cold War period.



Merkel, a politician seeking to find midway solutions and balances, attempted to intervene politically and bring the hostilities in Ukraine to an end. Her efforts culminated in the signing of Minsk II protocol in February 2015. Although this agreement has not been fully respected by either Ukraine or Russia, it constitutes a basis for a better understanding. 

During her stay in Sochi, Merkel is expected to focus on the revival of the peace talks in her meeting with Putin. A few weeks ago, she also met President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with the same purpose. Her policy aims at securing a ceasefire and adding a critical foreign policy aspect to her impressive economic record as German chancellor. In terms of the Ukraine crisis, the next critical question for Merkel is whether she should soften her approach on implementing European sanctions against Russia. On December 15, 2016, the European Council extended sanctions until July 31 and a new decision should be made in June. For the time being, there is no indication that these sanctions will be lifted. 

In the previous years, the EU had been put under pressure by the US administration to remain strict toward Moscow. And Merkel never sought to disappoint Obama in that regard. New US President Donald Trump has not yet made his stance clear. But the ongoing disagreement between the US and Russia over Syria challenges the previous expectation of a rapprochement. It is not a coincidence that some Western news agencies such as Reuters have expressed that the EU's potential intention to renew sanctions is "encouraged by Trump's unexpectedly frosty relations with Moscow." 



Along with looking to the US, Merkel needs to forge her own approach by taking into account what other politicians in Germany suggest. Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer, who is also the leader of the Christian Social Union, a sister-party of the Christian Democratic Union in Bundestag, does not agree with the policy of sanctions. He reiterated his position during his recent visit to Moscow in March. Financial Times then saw "Seehofer's trip to Russia a challenge to Merkel." The German chancellor cannot completely ignore the Bavarian leader as the federal election is quickly approaching. 

Another issue, not widely discussed by international media in the framework of Merkel's Moscow visit, is the highly politicized domestic debate about the construction of Nord Stream 2. If constructed, this pipeline will transport Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, complementing Nord Stream 1, which was completed six years ago. Merkel is put in an awkward position because the project is controversial. While the EU is making efforts to reduce its energy dependence on Russia, Berlin might be the pioneer of exactly the opposite trend. Under these circumstances, the EU wants to remain steadfast on its principles and has started to view energy projects, such as the construction of EastMed pipeline that can transport gas from Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, more positively. 

All in all, the main challenge ahead of the Merkel-Putin meeting in Sochi is whether the German chancellor might want to explore more opportunities to cooperate with Russia in international affairs. Even if sanctions are extended in June, the so-called selective engagement approach can gain some ground. The relations between the EU and Russia are not solely defined by their differing opinions on Syria and Ukraine, but also by their similar interests in countries like Libya and issues such as the fight against terror. The Merkel-Putin meeting can perhaps be the beginning of more constructive discussions, to be followed at the July G20 Summit in Hamburg.

 

2480 views


More Russian news

Turkey and Norway to start open skies flights over Russia

Turkey and Norway to start open skies flights over Russia

Norwegian and Turkish inspectors will conduct an aerial surveillance flight over the territory of Russia under the Treaty on Open Skies between May 29 and June 2, the head of Russia's Nuclear Risk Reduction Center Sergei …

 Russia’s Zvyagintsev wins Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival with Loveless

Russia’s Zvyagintsev wins Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival with Loveless

Russian film director Andrey Zvyaginstev has won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize for his bleak family drama Loveless.  The Award Ceremony of the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival was held on Sunday. …

Pentagon: NATO not a threat to Russia

Pentagon: NATO not a threat to Russia

NATO is not a threat to Russia, and Moscow is aware of this fact, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told CBS News in an interview. "Right now, Russia's future should be wedded to Europe. Why they see NATO as a …

 Cairo, Moscow finish talks on Egypt#039s first NPP

Cairo, Moscow finish talks on Egypt's first NPP

Cairo and Moscow have concluded negotiations on the construction of Dabaa Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), and the Egyptian authorities are checking the last contract's compliance with legislation, a high-ranking source at the Egyptian Ministry of …

MC-21 airliner makes first test flight

MC-21 airliner makes first test flight

MC-21 short-and medium-haul passenger plane made the first flight in Irkutsk, a source at the Irkutsk aviation plant (the Irkut Corporation) said on Sunday. "The plane was successful," the source said, refusing from further comments, …

Kursk deputy dies in accident near Rostov

Kursk deputy dies in accident near Rostov

Deputy of the Representative Assembly of Kursk Oblast Andrey Zolotykh and his wife died in an accident near Rostov. Driver of their car lost control and it collided with KamAZ. "As a result …

Lavrov: China, ASEAN interested in organization of Eurasian partnership

Lavrov: China, ASEAN interested in organization of Eurasian partnership

China and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) demonstrate interest in the idea of forming a bid Eurasian partnership, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a welcome speech addressed to …

Putin sends greeting to Border Guard on their professional holiday

Putin sends greeting to Border Guard on their professional holiday

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin greeted the military, civil personnel and veterans of the country’s Border Guard on their professional holiday on Sunday, TASS reports. The greeting is published on the …

Baikonur prepares for Progress MS-06 launch

Baikonur prepares for Progress MS-06 launch

Preparations for the second launch of the year began at Baikonur cosmodrome under the ISS programme, Kazinfom reports. Specialists of the Progress Russian Space Center are preparing Soyuz-2.1A carrier rocket for the launch which is …

Will anti-Iranian coalition be created?

Will anti-Iranian coalition be created?

Hardliners want to oppose Rouhani more resolutely

more Russian news