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Stefano Sannino: “Russia decided to have a difficult relationship with the EU”

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The 27 are disunited on most of the major issues that put them under tension: European enlargement, relations with Russia, the United States, China, the place of the EU in the world, fundamental values, strategic autonomy … of files which are addressed by Stefano Sannino. A dive into the intricacies of European diplomacy with the Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), who oversees the 142 ambassadors and two charge d’affaires that the Union has in third countries.

Respect for the fundamental values ​​of the EU

Europe is looking for strategic autonomy to think about the world and assert the fundamental values ​​on which the Union is founded. But within it, some countries do not respect some of them, like Poland and Hungary, which are the subject of an infringement procedure by the Commission because of their homophobic legislation. Stefano Sannino recalls the existence of an internal mechanism in the EU which makes it possible to ask these countries to “return to the rule of law”, and which therefore legitimizes the will of the EU to ensure respect for these values ​​outside of its borders, which could go as far as “exerting pressure on the ICC, either from a political or legal point of view” through the European Court of Justice.

EU-Ukraine summit

The EU-Ukraine summit held in Kyiv on 12 October resulted in an airspace deal and € 6 billion in aid. But the Ukrainians were mainly waiting for Europe on other issues. Stefano Sannino assures us that the EU has “expressed itself very strongly in favor and in support of Ukraine” vis-à-vis Russia, because “we cannot forget what Russia has done in Ukraine “. Whether it is about Crimea, of which “the Union has never recognized the illegal annexation”, or on the issue of gas transit, Europe supports Ukraine. “And the very fact that we have a sanctions regime vis-à-vis a certain number of people or entities in Russia is very eloquent.” But in return, and so that Ukraine “continues on its path of rapprochement with the EU”, the latter asks it to “embark on a path of reforms, the fight against corruption, and the state of law”.

Russian gas

Europe is now in the midst of an energy crisis with soaring prices. One of Europe’s main suppliers, Russian Gazprom, is accused of not delivering enough gas to Europeans. According to Russia’s representative to the EU, Vladimir Tchijov, “the crisis would be easily resolved if Europe stopped treating Russia as an adversary.” But for Stefano Sannino, “it is not the EU that has decided to have a difficult relationship with Russia, it is the opposite”. Even though the Union is “very worried about what is happening in the country in terms of human rights, fundamental rights and political law”, it wishes to continue “to speak with Russia on themes, subjects like the energy question, for which we have common interests “.

In the context of the delivery of gas to Europeans, Stefano Sannino underlines that “even if the respect of the contract is guaranteed, Russia does not make any efforts to facilitate the delivery”, which results in an increase in prices. , but he hopes that this situation is “cyclical” and “that we can quickly find measures at national level but also measures that the European Union could take in the medium to long term” to improve the situation of Europeans.

European enlargement

Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency until 31 December, was keen to make progress on the path to enlargement to include the countries of the Balkans. But the recent EU-Balkans summit has once again left the six contenders in the European club’s antechamber, potentially leaving the field open to Russia and China to expand their influence in the region. For Stefano Sannino, the EU “has an interest in having these countries within the Union” and it is “natural for the Balkan countries to eventually join the EU”. He is also pleased that Albania and North Macedonia have “expressed unambiguously that their place is with the European Union”. But it is above all a “political choice” of the countries concerned to “place themselves in a European context or try to play something else” and their “will to move forward with regard to the State. law or the fight against corruption “.

China and the strategic autonomy of the European Union

The United States would like to mobilize its European allies against China. But in view of the recent American and Australian “stab” in the submarine affair, the EU’s interest in aligning itself with Washington is no longer so obvious, and the idea of ​​developing the Union’s strategic autonomy is gaining ground. Stefano Sannino “understands the bitterness of France”, but distinguishes between the two types of relationship. Europe has been considering China for a long time “as a partner, a competitor or a rival”, and does not see itself excluded in the international context, because it is a “big country, which has an important capacity and which can be a very important partner “, without ignoring” that there are certain political and economic elements which are not in line “with the European system. The European Union therefore remains vigilant that “China cannot take advantage of its way of managing the economy compared to the European Union”.

Program prepared by Isabelle Romero, Yi Song, Perrine Desplats, Georgina Robertson and Céline Schmitt.

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