After the summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Germany and France called for a new EU strategy for closer engagement with Russia to strengthen discussions with Moscow.
Diplomats said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes that the European Union will consider inviting the Russian President to participate in a summit with EU leaders. The initiative has the support of French President Emmanuel Macron.
According to people familiar with the matter, at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, ambassadors representing Berlin and Paris put forward new proposals on relations with the Kremlin, which made other EU capitals untenable.
However, Merkel has been in close consultations with European allies in the past few days, and both Macron and Draghi visited Berlin for talks. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken also held talks with the government in Berlin this week.
Germany believes that the Biden-Putin summit provides a template for restoring relations with Russia. Merkel will meet with Putin on a regular basis, but advocates finding a form for the EU to express opinions on Russia.
Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the EU-Putin summit has been suspended.
The proposed new outreach activities with Moscow may alert some EU member states, such as the Baltic States and Poland, which are adjacent to Russia and want to take a tougher stance against the Kremlin.
The Franco-German initiative came shortly after Moscow stated that it had fired warning shots, including bombs, on a British warship in the Black Sea near Crimea. The United Kingdom denied that anyone had fired and expressed belief that “the Russians are conducting shooting exercises.”
At the May summit, EU leaders talked about the future of Russian relations and instructed the European Commission to make recommendations on how to proceed. But the French-German draft text is much more relaxed than last week’s committee analysis, which warned “Negative spiral“In the EU-Russia relationship and the need to counteract “malicious behavior.”
The wording proposed to other member states, if adopted, will become part of the conclusion of the summit later this week, reiterating the EU’s willingness to “selectively engage” with Russia in areas of common interest.
It encourages the European Commission and the European Union’s foreign affairs department to formulate “specific recommendations and influence” for this purpose. Topics will include climate, environment, Arctic, cross-border cooperation, health, space, the fight against terrorism, and foreign policy areas including Syria and Iran.
“In this regard, the European Council calls for a review of existing forms of dialogue with Russia, including leadership-level meetings,” said the proposed draft.
The proposal was made after Merkel had a phone call with Putin to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
According to the Kremlin, in that conference call, “someone pointed out that overcoming mutual hostility and achieving reconciliation between the Russian and German peoples is vital to Europe’s post-war future. Only now can we ensure the safe passage of our common continent. Work together”.
“The two parties agreed to further personal contact,” the Kremlin added.
A senior EU diplomat said that the Franco-German initiative caused a “stink” in other EU countries, and they intervened at the last minute on the eve of the summit to express their disappointment. “This is not the way to deal with things,” the diplomat said.
Another member state official said the intervention was “not very helpful”, and one-third said they were “still analyzing” the unexpected move. An EU official said that the EU will “rethink” how to find a way forward before the summit that starts on Thursday afternoon.
Additional reporting by Guy Chazan in Berlin and Victor Mallet in Paris