European leaders clashed over the Franco-German initiative to hold an EU summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Critics warned against making “free concessions” when relations with the Kremlin deteriorate.

Prior to the meeting of EU leaders on the unexpected proposal of the French-German proposal, Latvian Prime Minister Chris Janis Kalins warned against giving Putin too much, while Polish Prime Minister Matt Ushmoravitsky stated that only “actually” Dialogue should only be held in the case of a downgrade conflict.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that any meeting with Putin should be limited to the President of the European Commission and the European Council, rather than all member states participating. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told the Financial Times that this kind of thinking is “irresponsible” and a case of “historical myopia”.

Berlin and Paris put forward their proposals on the eve of the Brussels summit on Wednesday, which made their EU partners stand on the wrong foot.This Franco-German Initiative follow Last week’s meeting The relationship between US President Joe Biden and his Russian President in Geneva is aimed at stabilizing the deteriorating US-Russian relationship.

When arriving at the EU summit on Thursday, Karlins stated that he “fully supports the dialogue”, but given Russia’s actions, including the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the military invasion of eastern Ukraine, the dialogue must “make Russia pay a certain price” .

“The Kremlin understands power politics,” Kalins said. “The Kremlin does not understand free concessions as a symbol of strength.”

Since the annexation of Crimea, the EU-Russia summit has been suspended. The last time occurred in January 2014 between Putin and the then European Commission and European Council President.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated in a speech in the Bundestag on Thursday that the EU should seek “direct contact” with Russia like Biden. “It’s not enough for US President Joe Biden to talk to the Russian President,” she told German lawmakers. “I welcome it, but the EU must also create a form of dialogue. Otherwise, we will not be able to resolve the conflict.”

French President Emmanuel Macron later stated that he hoped to have a “demanding and ambitious” dialogue with Russia on the basis of European harmonization and insisted that the EU cannot maintain a pure reaction when dealing with Russia.

Merkel and Macron won the support of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Kurz said on Wednesday that he was “very pleased with the progress of the dialogue with Russia.”

“We are geographically closer to Russia than the United States, and the EU cannot simply watch the United States and Russia engage in dialogue,” Kurtz said. “Topics like Ukraine worry us more than the United States.”

Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin had a “positive attitude” towards the proposal and was waiting for signs of agreement among the 27 EU member states.

“We are actively evaluating the initiative,” Peskov told reporters on Thursday. “President Putin supports the restoration of the dialogue and contact mechanism between Brussels and Moscow.”

But Landsbergis told the British Financial Times on Wednesday that it would be irresponsible to restart the meeting with Russia in Moscow “closest to Soviet totalitarianism.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania added: “It may be considered misfortune to fall into the trap once or twice, but continuing to do so for ten years and ten years seems to be historic shortsightedness.

In view of the differences in the European Union, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that it is unclear whether the summit will take place. “We don’t even know if other EU member states agree with this,” he said.

Defenders of the German-French initiative pointed out more stringent content in their proposed EU conference text, vowing to seek a “firm and coordinated response” to any further “malicious, illegal and destructive activities” in Russia. When dealing with Russia, it also raised the possibility of economic sanctions as part of the EU’s arsenal.

But after the meeting between the ambassadors late on Wednesday night, the most difficult issues were left for the leaders to resolve—especially the “review” of “existing forms of dialogue with Russia, including the level of leadership”.

Before arriving at the summit, Rutte pointed out possible ways to resolve differences among member states, implying that he would like to see Putin hold summits with the European Commission and European Council presidents, but he “will not participate.”

The Brussels summit will also debate a long list of areas designated by Germany and France for “selective engagement” with Russia.

These include the environment, the Arctic, cross-border cooperation, energy, health, space, and the fight against terrorism and organized crime. There are also foreign policy issues on the list, including the Iran nuclear deal, Syria and Libya.

Merkel said on Thursday that the EU must “determine an agenda for common strategic interests” with Russia. But she tried to dispel the impression that she was trying to please Putin.

She said that individual EU member states are responding to the “substantial provocations by Russia” in an “uncoordinated way” and need to better coordinate their practices.

“We must establish mechanisms so that we can respond in a united and collective manner [such] Provocation,” she added. “Only in this way can we learn to face Russia’s mixed attacks. ”

In her final speech in the Bundestag as prime minister before the federal election in September, Merkel emphasized that because the EU has a special “responsibility” for Ukraine, Belarus and the western Balkan countries, the EU “must give appropriate responses to Russian activities in these countries .

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