Stefano Sannino: “We need compromises on gas to avoid Germany’s isolation”

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In Brussels, a particularly eventful Council of 27 on the energy crisis was held at the end of the week. If the Europeans have initiated eight rounds of sanctions against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, citizens are worried about the consequences on their economy. Does the EU have the means of its diplomacy and what message is it sending to the world? We talk about it with the head of European diplomats, Stefano Sannino, Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS).

As war rages in Ukraine with the Russian army counter-offensive pounding civilian installations, Stefano Sannino insists on the importance of diplomacy. “We must distinguish what is called diplomacy” because, for him, it takes several forms. “It has found its place. We have supported Ukraine from a military, economic, financial, political point of view, also by granting Ukraine the status of candidate to the European Union and by isolating Russia with a series of sanctions: that too is diplomacy.” If it is necessary to aim for the end of this conflict, “it must be done under conditions which are fair so that it is not a capitulation”.

While he understands concerns about nuclear threats from Russia, “I hope, I believe there is still some rationality in the way Russia is fighting its battle,” he said.

On the price of gas, which occupied a large part of the European summit and gave rise to a difficult agreement on its cap, the Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) prefers to minimize the differences between the Franco-German tandem , indicating that energy ministers must continue the discussion and make a good faith effort. He recognizes, however, that “there are different sensitivities. France is almost independent from an energy point of view, Germany is not and needs to get supplies. This is the concern of Chancellor Scholz . “

But for Stefano Sannino, an agreement must be found so that a country like Germany, central within the EU, does not find itself isolated.

“Difficult situation” with Iran

About the Iranian drones used in Ukraine, the Italian diplomat confirms: “Our security services gave us clear indications on the origin of these drones, this was the basis of the sanctions against Iran.”

He admits a “difficult situation in our relations with Iran”. For him, Europe must defend its values ​​”even if the country is getting closer to Russia. This does not prevent us from giving our position on human rights.”

After the Conference of Ambassadors, Stefano Sannino emphasizes the preeminent role of diplomats in providing information. While it is true that the Europeans did not foresee the Russian invasion as it happened, they nevertheless understood that Moscow wanted to launch military operations. “We started working in December in this direction on the sanctions with our Americans and British (…). It is not a miracle that we managed in two to receive sanctions and to support the military effort. ” According to him, this is the result of upstream work: “The services and the diplomats did what they had to do.”

Diplomacy has evolved, observes Stefano Sannino: “It does not only pass through the military field, it also uses energy, information, cyberattacks. You need to have fairly sophisticated reading instruments.”

The Chinese Challenge

Across the Channel, after the broadcast of British Prime Minister Liz Truss, Stefano Sannino hopes that the United Kingdom will regain the stability necessary for better cooperation with the EU.

Finally, the European diplomat advocates pragmatism in the face of the essential partner who represents China. “But we must avoid, he specifies, being too weak and dependent in certain sectors that are too exposed – as was the case for energy with Russia – so as not to be too dependent on imports.”

We must face up, explains Stefano Sannino, to the challenge of Chinese competition “which is not only economic but also political on human rights or cooperation with third countries”.

Program prepared by Isabelle Romero, Sophie Samaille and Perrine Desplats.


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