The EU leaders decided on Tuesday (21 June) to extend sanctions against Russia through January 2017, targeting defense, finance and energy sectors. The decision has not yet been officially approved but the high-ranked EU officials said that there was no doubt that they would. The EU is reportedly intending to take stock of its Russia policy in the second half of this year. EU Council President Donald Tusk plans to put the issue on the agenda of the October summit of the 28 EU leaders.
EU sanctions against Moscow were initially introduced in 2014 over Russia’s involvement in the Crimean conflict. Since their onset, they have targeted both legal entities and individuals. Russia responded by an embargo on agricultural produce, food and raw materials against those countries that take part in the sanctions. Although both sides have repeatedly extended the punitive measures, there are now voices in the EU saying that the sanctions are neither politically effective nor economically sound for both the EU and Russia. Last week, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which he attended despite the resistance from Washington and Brussels, that both sides should nevertheless continue their dialogue despite the sanctions.
“We can have no illusions about the problems weighing on our relationship today. They exist. It would be pointless, even dangerous, to ignore them. We must tackle them urgently,” Mr Juncker commented. Russian President Putin reacted that Moscow was ready to lift its sanctions if the EU could assure the Kremlin that reciprocal measures would be taken on the EU side as well and that Russia wouldn’t be “once again deceived” by its Western partners. The EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner, accounting for almost 45 percent of Russia’s foreign trade in 2015. Russia is the EU’s fourth largest trade partner, preceded by the US, China and Switzerland.