More and more European politicians start to speak openly about the need to repeal the sanctions imposed by the West against Russia in 2014, as well as the counter-sanctions. They speak not only about their ineffectiveness but also an enormous economic damage which has been caused to both parties since the sanctions were adopted.
Following bilateral talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban in Novo-Ogaryovo residence on February 17, Hungarian Prime Minister said that the period when the sanctions were automatically extended is left behind.
“Up until now, we automatically extended the sanctions. I think that period is behind us; more and more people in Europe understand what I am talking about,” the head of the Hungarian government stressed.
In turn, Vladimir Putin noted that the fulfillment of the Minsk Agreements currently depends on Kiev and lifting of the sanctions should not be linked with the end of this process.
“We heard today and in the past that all this depends, first and foremost, on between the conflicting sides in Ukraine, that were supported by Russia, France and Germany in the Normandy Format, but It seems to me that any objective observer will see today that the ball is in the court of the Ukrainian authorities. It is they who must, first and foremost, fulfill the provisions of the Minsk Agreements,” Russian President stated.
He also added that the previous agreements provide for the amendment of the Ukrainian Constitution.
“As you recall, the key here is political settlement, creating the political conditions, the most important of which is amending the Ukrainian Constitution, which is clearly set in the Minsk Agreements: it states in black and white that the Ukrainian side must make amendments to its Constitution by the end of 2015. As we can see, this has not been done,” Vladimir Putin said.
Analyzing relations between the EU and Russia, Tiina Elovaara, Finnish parliament deputy from the Finns Party, member of Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that the sanctions might not have been the most effective tool to effect situation.
“Relations with Russia have become tense in some areas. We have not seen the changes to this course, but I believe that now starts to be time for new estimation,” the politician said in an interview with “PenzaNews” agency.
She also reminded that Russia is an important neighbor for Finland.
“Our border with Russia is longer than that of the rest of the EU put together. Personally I believe in interaction and active political discussion. It is clear that sanctions have negative side effects to the Finland’s industries also, especially to the milk industry,” the deputy said.
According to her, Finland’s consistent approach has been to build cooperation with Russia.
“We have to consider seriously how EU-Russian relations should be arranged. This includes deeper analyze of sanction politics – what are the best ways to interact and effect.
We have deep concern about Ukraine’s situation and Russian’s actions. There is ongoing discussion about Russian’s identity and goals with this conflict in Ukraine. However, we need bilateral relationship with Russia also,” Tiina Elovaara noted.
In turn, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), stated that in the context of the Ukraine situation, sanctions against Russia suffer from a lack in political credibility.
“Slowly, some Western politicians realize that the Ukrainian authorities seem to be unwilling or incapable of fulfilling their commitments under the Minsk agreements. A considerable part of the general public feels that there is unjust treatment of Russia as compared to the authorities in Kiev. I expect more pressure on Kiev in the next months. However, most Western countries will remain biased, well aware that they have been instrumental in bringing about the events on Maidan and the regime change in Kiev. The EU has tried to exert pressure in the context of the Free trade area negotiations, disregarding the complexity of Ukraine, the wishes of a large proportion of its population and the economic interconnection of Eastern Ukraine with Russia,” the politician said.
Meanwhile, there are no positive results from the sanctions, he said.
“They have spoiled the political climate between European Nations and have damaged the economies of both Russia and EU countries. Politically, they have not succeeded in changing Russia’s attitude in key questions,” Luxembourg MP stressed.
He also noted that there is a shift in the official justification of the sanctions.
“Crimea is rarely cited nowadays, and MH 17 cannot be invoked any more due of a lack of proof. Therefore the current justification discourse is about Minsk. I expect, that the situation of Eastern Ukraine, will turn into a ‘frozen conflict’ as has been the case with a number of other conflicts in the post-Soviet area,” Fernand Kartheiser explained.
Moreover, he expressed the hope that the majority of western politicians will resist the current pressures to return to a cold war-type relationship that is totally unjustified.
“I will personally do my very best to work for better relations with Russia. However, a general prediction of the future is very difficult, it depends on the elections in the US, evolutions in Germany, the situation around Turkey and Syria, the oil prize, the conflict and Ukraine and on so many other factors,” the politician added.
Demetris Papadakis, Member of European Parliament from Cyprus, shared the view of sanctions’ inability to resolve the situation.
“Who are we going to talk with and who to convince that the Minsk agreement must be respected in order to find a proper solution? On the other hand, I would like to point out that, unfortunately, in a large section of the European Union there is a complete hypocrisy according this issue. And that is because, and the same time, Turkey occupies illegally half my homeland for 42 years and Europe takes no action against them, but on the contrary there are discussions about Turkey’s entry to the European Union,” the politician said.
However, he noted that Cold War climate between the European Union and Russia is disastrous for everyone.
“What remains is a frank and direct dialogue in order to resolve the existing problems. In some European countries there is fear and suspicion towards Russia, remembering the former Eastern bloc. Therefore Russia has a special role, through peaceful political statements, to wipe out phobias and propaganda developed to serve others and not the people of Europe,” the MEP said.
He decided not to make any assumptions about the future development of the situation.
“This period is not the best for forecasts. There is so much political instability worldwide and terrorism has entered our homes and life. So alliances are volatile,” Demetris Papadakis explained.
In turn, Stefano Maullu, member of the European Parliament from Italy, Group of the European People’s Party member, said that the sanctions imposed by the European Union against Russia represent an attempt to answer to a political question through an economic tool.
“The outcomes, of course, have been negative for both sides. I am optimistic in that regard: I expect that the sanctions will be withdrawn, and finally Europe and Russia will be able to rebuild the strategic partnership, not only in economics, but also about security cooperation and cultural exchanges,” the MEP said.
Moreover, in his view, the EU and US policy against Russia did not bring any positive results.
“The US and part of the EU member states expected to influence Russia’s internal political decisions by imposing the sanctions, but they failed. Moscow reacted by imposing their economic counter-measures and the situation stalled,” the politician reminded.
The European Union lost, at least for a certain time, one among its most relevant partners, he said.
“The lack of partnership has made the economic recovery harder, and the political challenges that we were supposed to face together, such as terrorism, refugee crisis and the instability of the Middle East, more difficult to win,” the deputy explained his position.
He also expressed hope that the sanctions will not be renewed in June this year.
“I am sure that President Vladimir Putin will withdraw the ban soon after,” Stefano Maullu added.
However, Lampros Fountoulis, MEP from Greece, expressed the opposite view on the prospects of bilateral cooperation.
“As a member of the European Parliament’s EU – Russian Federation delegation, I can have a relatively clear image of the current state in our relations. Many in the Parliament are adopting, without second thoughts, a very aggressive stance against Russia. The main reason behind this is their will to serve US interests and to deepen the rift between European countries. So, as long as the United States retain their firm hold in European politicians, I cannot imagine that an improvement will take place,” the deputy said.
On the other hand, he pointed out that there is a small but increasing current of influential public figures in Europe proposing reconciliation with Russia, something that will be in the best interest of everyone.
“I cannot see any positive results by imposing the sanctions. Also, the sanctions are a highly hypocritical move. The Western world claims to be a defender of democracy, but it doesn’t recognize the free will of the People in Crimea, as it was expresses in the Referendum for the integration in the Russian Federation, after the western backed coup d’état in Ukraine,” the politician noted.
Moreover, according to him, the economic damage from imposing the sanctions is considerable, especially in Greece, where they had a lot of agricultural exports to Russia.
“I think that in the medium and long term, political realism will force the western countries to cooperate with Russia, a major player in international politics and a constant guarantee to global stability. Of course, we have to respect each other’s needs and wishes. The cost of no cooperation is too great for the western world to bear, and the sooner everyone realizes this, the better,” Lampros Fountoulis concluded.
Relations between Russia and the Western nations have deteriorated over the Ukraine crisis.
The US government initiated the sanctions in attempt to isolate Russia. At the risk of economic losses, this decision was supported by the European Union countries. Later, the sanctions, which turned into measures against entire sectors of the Russian economy and not only some individuals, were supported by some other US and EU partner countries.
In response, Russia placed an embargo on the export of food products from the countries that have imposed sanctions against it: the United States, the States of the European Union, Canada, Australia and Norway.