The Council held a comprehensive and strategic discussion on EU-Russia relations.
During the debate, a shared assessment emerged that Russia was drifting towards an authoritarian state and away from Europe. Ministers restated their unity of intent, and discussed how relations with Russia could develop within the framework of the five guiding principles.
Speaking at the press conference following the Foreign Affairs Council, Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, stressed: “The Ministers unanimously interpreted Russia’s recent actions and responses as a clear signal of not being interested in cooperation with the European Union. On the contrary, it looks interested in confrontation and disengagement from the European Union. With Ministers – I am happy to say it – we confirmed our unity as our greatest asset. We have considered during our discussion that we need to work along three main lines when it comes to Russia, within the framework of the five guiding principles.”
In view of the latest developments, ministers agreed to proceed with work on future restrictive measures in response to serious violations of human rights.
“In response to events around the situation of Mr [Alexei] Navalny, we reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for his arrest, sentencing and persecution. In doing that, for the first time ever, we will make use of the European Union Global Human Rights [Sanctions] Regime to this end. These sanctions will be put in the pipeline of our administrative process today under a proposal of the High Representative. I hope they will be decided soon. Maybe it will take one week, but I hope not more than that, and will be approved by written procedure by the Council,” said the High Representative at the press conference.
Josep Borrell concluded by stating: “We also agreed to give more support to all those engaged in the country – in Russia – in defending the political and civil freedoms. At the same time, we must define a modus vivendi to avoid permanent confrontation with a neighbour who, unfortunately, seems to have decided to act as an adversary. Unfortunately. But this looks [like] the reality.”