EU Extends Economic Sanctions on Russia by Six Months Political and military events
The European Union has formally agreed to extend its economic sanctions on Russia by six months until the end of January 2017, the European Council announced on Friday.
The decision was long expected. It had been delayed until Friday because Italy wanted the status of the Minsk peace and cease-fire agreements discussed first at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels earlier this week.
EU leaders have tied the defense, banking and energy sanctions it imposed in the summer of 2014 to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements between Ukraine and Russia. Russia and Ukraine are still to complete major parts of that deal. There has been continued violence in recent weeks involving pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
While the sanctions rollover will go ahead, EU leaders have already planned discussions in coming months to look again at the restrictions, which have helped push Russia’s economy into a slump but have also hit EU farmers and other groups.
Russia has reciprocated against the European measures by banning the import of a wide range of agricultural products.
EU leaders will discuss the sanctions and broader Russian ties in October. Foreign ministers may also debate the issue when they meet at an informal summit in Slovakia in September.
There have long been EU critics of the sanctions policy, which some say have been ineffective in solving the Ukraine crisis. The leaders of Italy, Slovakia, Greece and Hungary have been among those to criticize the policy while the French parliament is one of several to officially call for a change in tack.
Last month, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the EU should consider restructuring the sanctions so that they can be better designed to push Russia and Ukraine toward reconciliation. He said the sanctions could be removed in a step-by-step way if the situation in eastern Ukraine stabilizes.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the tying of the sanctions to the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. Poland, the Baltic States and Britain are among the other member states that have pressed to keep the current policy in place.