On his return to the Old Continent, Josep Borrell presented his meeting with Sergei Lavrov as “very complicated”. A few days earlier, at a press conference in Moscow, he nevertheless spoke of an “open and frank” dialogue.
Two versions of the same meeting. After his visit to Moscow, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell spoke on February 7 in a blog post about a “very complicated” meeting, to the surprise of Moscow, which has seen a clear change in tone since the comments made in press conference.
“The Russian authorities did not want to take the opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU. Although this is not totally unexpected, it is regrettable and we will have to draw the consequences, ”wrote the Spaniard, former President of the European Parliament, in his note. “It will be up to the member states to decide on the next steps, and yes, these could include sanctions,” he added.
Josep Borrell indicated that his visit focused mainly on the issue of respect for human rights, in particular on the case of the opponent Alexeï Navalny (imprisoned for violating the conditions of his reprieve) and that on this subject, “sometimes , the discussion with my Russian counterpart has reached high levels of tension ”. “My meeting with Minister Lavrov and the messages sent by the Russian authorities during this visit confirmed that Europe and Russia are moving away from each other. It seems that Russia is gradually disconnecting from Europe and sees democratic values as an existential threat, ”he argued.
Moscow “astonished” by Borrell’s exit
Following this publication by the European diplomat, Moscow said it was “surprised” by this presentation of his visit to Russia by Borrell, “which contrasts sharply with his statements made during the press conference” with Lavrov, explains the ministry. Russian Foreign Office, quoted by TASS.
On February 5, after his interview with Sergei Lavrov, Josep Borrell had indeed declared that the European Union and Russia had had an “open and frank” dialogue on a certain number of subjects, including the support of Brussels. to Alexeï Navalny.
“Nobody limited it either in time or in terms of format. Perhaps, after returning to Brussels, the head of EU diplomacy received clarification as to what he should have focused on, but in this case it only confirms by whom and how is European policy developed in practice, ”stressed the Russian ministry.
Point also revealed on February 8 that a petition launched by MEPs from the Baltic countries would circulate to the European Parliament to demand the resignation of Josep Borrell following this visit which would have, according to the petitioners, seriously damaged the “reputation of the European Union”.
EU foreign ministers will meet on February 22 to decide on possible new sanctions against Moscow, a decision that requires a unanimous vote by EU member states. Brussels accuses Moscow of refusing to accede to its request for the release of Alexey Navalny, which the Russian side considers a form of interference in its internal affairs. Another point of tension: Russia has expelled three EU diplomats from Russia (a German, a Swede, a Pole) for participating in unauthorized demonstrations in support of Navalny.