7 June 2021, 16:00
On 7 June 2021, President Michel spoke with President Putin on the phone.
President Michel conveyed the European Council’s position on EU-Russia relations and that in their May discussions, EU leaders condemned the illegal, provocative and disruptive Russian activities against the EU, its member states and others.
The EU stands united and in solidarity in face of such acts. The EU-Russia relations are at a low. This situation or its further deterioration is in neither side’s interest.
The EU remains committed to the five guiding principles governing the EU’s policy vis-à-vis Russia (see below).
During the call the European Council president reiterated the EU’s unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders and stressed Russia’s share of responsibility in fully implementing the Minsk agreements.
The situation in Belarus was also discussed. The president of the European Council reiterated the EU’s assessment of the forced landing of the Ryanair flight by the Belarusian authorities and informed of the sanctions imposed by the European Union following the incident.
President Michel stressed it was essential for Belarus authorities to release political prisoners, stop repressions and violence and engage in inclusive national dialogue. Russia can play an important role in supporting a peaceful settlement of the crisis.
The presidents also exchanged views on Libya, the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict as well as on the COVID pandemic, vaccines and other global issues.
The EU’s Russia policy: Five guiding principles
While EU-Russia relations had long been difficult, in 2014 they took an abrupt turn for the worse, after Russia illegally annexed Crimea and fomented separatist insurgencies in eastern Ukraine.
To date, little progress has been made towards ending the Ukraine conflict. In addition, new sources of tension have emerged, for example: Russia’s military backing for the Assad regime in Syria, and alleged Russian interference in EU politics. In the short term, an easing of tensions seems unlikely.
In March 2016, EU foreign ministers and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, agreed on five guiding principles for EU-Russia relations:
- full implementation of the Minsk agreements;
- closer ties with Russia’s former Soviet neighbours;
- strengthening EU resilience to Russian threats;
- selective engagement with Russia on certain issues such as counter-terrorism;
- and support for people-to-people contacts.
Implementing each of these principles faces major difficulties. The EU is unlikely to lift sanctions against Russia while implementation of the Minsk agreements remains stalled; the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood remains a zone of confrontation; EU security is threatened by dependence on Russian energy imports and the destabilising effects of aggressive propaganda; EU-Russia cooperation on international issues has become a victim of tensions between the two sides; repressive Russian legislation obstructs EU support for Russian civil society; diplomatic tensions are mirrored by mutual suspicion between ordinary EU citizens and Russians. This is an updated edition of a briefing from October 2016.