European Union External Action

Salisbury attack: EU condemns grave challenge to shared security; 17 countries expel Russian diplomats

26/03/2018 - 13:00
News stories

The EU and its 28 Member States stand united in their strong condemnation of the recent illegal use of a Russian chemical nerve agent against individuals in Salisbury, UK. They expressed unqualified solidarity with the UK and agreed to coordinate on the consequences and next steps, which have so far included the expulsion of Russian diplomats in 17 EU countries.

chemical weapons, Salisbury, EU-Russia

The European Council on 22 March (and Foreign Affairs Council on 19 March) condemned once again the Salisbury attack in the strongest possible terms, naming it a "grave challenge to our shared security".

The attack took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, UK on 4 March 2018, and also left a police officer seriously ill. The Foreign Ministers of the 28 EU Member States expressed the EU's shock at the offensive use of any military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, for the first time on European soil in over 70 years, and declared it a breach of international law and undermines the rules-based international order.

Following the suggestion of the European Council, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini recalled the Head of the EU delegation to Russia, Markus Ederer, for consultations to Brussels on 25 March.

As a direct follow up to the European Council decision to react within a common framework, so far 16 Member States (plus UK) have also decided to expel Russian diplomats. As President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced, additional measures - including further expulsions within the common EU framework - are not excluded.

EU leaders reaffirmed that the use of chemical weapons, including the use of any toxic chemicals as weapons under any circumstances, is completely unacceptable, must be systematically and rigorously condemned and constitutes a security threat to all. Member States will coordinate on the consequences to be drawn in the light of the answers provided by the Russian authorities.

Against this background, the Heads of State and Government agreed that the European Union must strengthen its resilience to Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear-related risks, including through closer cooperation between the European Union and its Member States as well as NATO. The European Union and its Member States should also continue to bolster their capabilities to address hybrid threats, including in the areas of cyber, strategic communication and counter-intelligence

Regarding Russia, the EU's policy is guided since 2016 by five principles:

  1. Full implementation of the Minsk agreements as a key element for any substantial change in our relations;
  2.  Strengthening relations with our Eastern partners and other neighbours, in particular in Central Asia;
  3.  Strengthening internal European Union resilience;
  4.  Selective engagement with Russia on foreign policy issues and in other areas where there is a clear EU interest;
  5.  Support to Russian civil society and to invest in people-to-people contacts and exchanges.
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