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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Europe extends sanctions, preparing to mitigate them


The European Union has extended sanctions against Russia – in the fourth, but we can safely say that, like the last time. It is clear that they are automatically more would not be renewed. More and more countries of the EU requires as the debate about the sanctions themselves, and the development of a mechanism of their attenuation. Europe simply cannot afford to enter the next year in terms of tense relations with Russia.

EU sanctions against Russia will be extended for the next six months, the matter has been coordinated by the permanent representatives of the EU, and the final decision will be approved at a summit of European leaders in a week.

The Kremlin always said that anti-Russian sanctions – is the problem of those who introduced them. And now we see how the sanctions are intra-European political headache”

The issue of extending sanctions by the EU has already become a traditional seasonal theme of the day and our European media – twice a year, in December and June, and they extended that becomes an occasion for heated discussion, divination and predictions. But although for almost two years of sanctions they have already been extended three times, the current, fourth, extension is different from the previous one.

Each extension is given to the EU more difficult – but this time it is already virtually a public discussion about the need for easing of sanctions. Moreover, talking about it is not only opposition politicians, but also representatives of the ruling parties. Naturally, neither of which simple removal of the question. European leaders can’t neglect the Atlantic “solidarity” (in other words, the Anglo-Saxon pressure), nor to expose themselves to their own voters inconsistent and especially weak politicians.

Need to come up with a justification for a gradual easing of sanctions – and this is what all the last six months have been studied by many Europeans. And not because of his Russophile or “Putin – no, Europe is not the most desired normal trade, and political relations with Russia. All sensible Europeans understand that pressure from Russia not achieve anything. The more that pressure purpose ordinary Europeans simply do not understand.

What the EU wants from Moscow? So she gave Donbass to Kiev? But this will not happen – not to mention the fact that the struggle for European Ukraine is not popular among European voters. Even through the veil of propaganda russophobian very many people understand that Europe got into someone else’s garden, in “dispute among themselves Slavs”, intervened in the Affairs of the Russian world. Punishing Russia with sanctions, the Europeans have been hitting themselves – economic ties were so strong that in every European country felt it.

And from a geopolitical point of view, the EU is not a hand to get in even greater dependence on the United States – and this is what happens as the continuation of the conflict with Russia. Sanctions war with Russia intensifies Atlantic and Pro-American lobby in the EU, but why do it the same France? Even Atlanticist politicians, such as former President Sarkozy, in favour of a phased lifting of sanctions – because thinking about his political future. And those who didn’t think of it among the European leaders there – all soon to be re-elected.

Next year will be elections in France and Germany a year later – in Italy. The results of local elections in these countries show a clear increase in the influence of eurosceptics, and sanctions against Russia – is one example of the madness of Brussels and the strongest argument in the campaign against “sacrificing national interests” of the ruling elites. The ruling social Democrats and the Christian social Union in Germany, the Democratic party in Italy, the socialists in France are under attack from eurosceptics (both right and left), and they just can’t go to the polls with a tough position on Russia, unpopular in society and especially among the large part of the business elites.

The Netherlands or in Austria, or in Spain with Greece don’t want the “Europeanization of Ukraine”, the more the cost of breaking ties with Russia – and this is not taken into account no European politician. If Merkel and Hollande have no political future, their opponents, the coalition partners (as in the case of Germany) and even party members are not going to end my career in 2017. And that means that by the end of next year, the ruling European parties will have to submit to the voters the program out of the crisis in European-Russian relations and to reassure business that does not intend to abandon lucrative contracts and joint projects (like pipelines).

The Kremlin has always said that anti-Russian sanctions – is the problem of those who imposed them, and we will not ask about their cancellation. And now came the moment when European politicians already can’t even pretend that sanctions are not their problem. No, now it is primarily their headache.

To begin the easing of sanctions, need to come up with a reason. And since everything depends on the implementation of the Minsk agreement impossible, then you need to portray the situation as if they are running. Now everything depends on Kyiv’s position – there is not want and cannot accept stipulated agreements laws. The EU hoped that Washington would press on Ukraine – but the Americans are not interested in arm-twisting the Kiev authorities, realizing that the adoption of the “treacherous” laws can cause an acute attack of internal political crisis and to accelerate the disintegration of the square. So, we need to find language that would allow European governments to tell their constituents that the process is progressing.

How to prove “progress”? By checking the box opposite points of the Minsk – laws, the holding of elections. So, on Tuesday, Francois Hollande said that he considers possible a phased lifting of sanctions against Russia as the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements “in terms of security, we see significant shifts, but has not yet implemented the requirement to change the electoral law, the conduct of elections and the liberation of the hostages”.

The word “monitoring”, “partial compliance”, “notable progress” and “gradual abolition” in the near future will be the most used in the speeches of European politicians and European officials. The period of preparation of public opinion.

As said Monday in an interview with Euronews European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, at the moment it is quite clear that in June we will renew the sanctions:

“But for the next six months we will continue monitoring to understand whether there is sufficient progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements in order to remove some sanctions… simply put, the more you complete, the points of the Minsk Protocol, the fewer sanctions.”

Came last week in Petersburg Juncker, in fact, set the tone of the discussion and direction of movement by December, when the next time will be the question of the extension of the sanctions: by this time you need to come up with evidence of “progress”. Representatives of national governments expressed more specifically – the debate on the terms of renewal shall take place at the next EU summit, which will take place next week.

The Minister of foreign Affairs of France Jean-Marc Ayrault said that today the conditions for the lifting of sanctions is not done, “the Minsk agreements are not fulfilled, there is progress, but insufficient’, but the extension of sanctions should not be automatic, it must be fully discussed:

“I want to be at the next meeting of the Council of Europe, because the appropriateness of these sanctions will be determined at the level of heads of state and government, we were not satisfied with the automatic extension of the sanctions for six months, and that was the discussion, and to the French President and the German Chancellor was able to announce that we have done the “Normandy format” for the progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements… And what do we do if there are any new developments. And if we are able to give a reassuring signal one and the other, it can be useful.”

Even more revealing were the Slovaks, who will chair the EU in the next six months. The Minister of foreign Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak said that European governments can no longer ignore political pressure in some EU countries that louder start to demand a review of the sanctions policy against Russia. Should the European debate, said Lajcak because there is “a growing demand for political debate”:

“I’m not calling for the lifting of sanctions. But what I don’t want to see is that we formally support the sanctions and during the sanctions, but each concludes with Russia a major deal visits her, meets with people who are blacklisted. This is today’s reality, so I think that discussing (it) would be fair”.

And business elite talking about plain text about your dissatisfaction with the fact that sanctions are not eased now. The head of the Austrian Federal economic chamber Christoph Leitl stated that “after the positive signal sent by President Vladimir Putin, a reaction of the European Union is disappointing”. He believes that the EU should make the decision on gradual easing of sanctions to meet Russian.

It is not necessary to expect that European politicians will meet Russia – but ignore at the same time and their business elites and voters, they just can’t. Let them go to meet them – and we’ll see whether they have time and if they can help it to save power.

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