Kallas wants to know justification behind proposed new EU-Russia summit

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said she wants to know the reasoning behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron proposing a new EU-Russia summit as nothing has changed.

Speaking on Thursday at the European Council meeting in Brussels, Kallas said (link to video in English and Estonian): "Well, some of the member states have proposed this but this is totally new on the table. We had a very open and candid discussion last time and we all had the same view that Russia is a growing threat to the European Union so my questions are what is the outcome of this summit, what do we get out of this and what has changed?"

The prime minister said she wants to understand the motivation behind Macron and Merkel's suggestion which was published by the UK's Financial Times (FT) newspaper on Wednesday (link in English).

"I wonder what has happened now, where this proposal comes [from] and I am really keen to listen to their argumentation [about] what has changed from last time because what we have seen [is that] Russian only goes as far as we let them and we should be very clear what is our goal in [our] relationship with Russia and what has changed and why this on the table now," Kallas said.

She said previous high-level meetings have not worked in the European Union's favor. Mentioning the widely criticized recent visit of the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Moscow, Kallas said: "That outcome was not very positive for the European Union."

Asked by a journalist if she thinks that now is the right time to hold a summit, Kallas answered: "Personally, I do not think it is the time to have such summits on leaders' levels because what has changed? I mean what we agreed in 2014, those conditions have not fallen and we have to understand what is the situation right now and what we are try[ing] to get out of this summit."

Speaking about the impact of sanctions on Russia, Kallas said: "Our intelligence says that sanctions are working. The European Union must be more patient regarding the [impact of] sanctions, we have to have strategic patience."

On Wednesday, the FT reported that Germany and France have called for a new EU strategy of closer engagement with Russia to build on discussions with Moscow after US president Joe Biden's Geneva summit with Vladimir Putin. 

Foreign minister: Minsk agreements must be stuck too

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) told ERR on Thursday that before the EU and Russia resume high-level meetings, Russia must follow previously agreed resolutions relating to the conflict in Ukraine.

"Estonia's position on this issue has been the same for a long time: that the most important thing when looking for changes in relations with Russia is that Russia must first implement the Minsk agreements and then we can start reviewing the current policy," Liimets said.

"It is important that the territories annexed by the Russian Federation also be returned to the countries to which they belong. And then we can discuss further how to restore and improve relations."

She highlighted the five policy principles agreed with the European Union in relation to Russia which set the preconditions and framework for contact.

"From Estonia's point of view, it is very important that the European Union continues to follow the five principles. And among its principles is to not organize high-level meetings or summits," Liimets said.

The first Minsk agreement was signed in the capital of Belarus on September 5, 2014. It called for (link in English) an immediate and full bilateral ceasefire; withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides; effective monitoring and verification regime for the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons, among other things.

Mihkelson: Proposal would be "fundamental change of direction"

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Marko Mihkelson (Reform) also said he was against the idea.

"This is a very unfortunate initiative. Even in the sense that it was done without discussion with partners - the idea came only a few days ago, just before today's European Council, and countries have not been able to discuss it," he said.

Mihkelson said Merkel and Macron's proposal would mean a fundamental change of direction in the EU's Russian policy. This would be difficult for Estonia and other countries to accept.

"This is because, in essence, it would mean that we abandon the current policy towards Russia which was agreed after aggression towards Ukraine when European Union member states said that we would not resume top-level communication until Russia complied with the Minsk agreements and stopped aggression against Ukraine," he said.

Former president: Macron, Merkel "have learnt nothing"

Former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves was heavily critical of plans for a potential summit.

He said that: "Merkel and Macron are either clueless or have learnt nothing from 80 years of history and the nations betrayed by the Germans."

Adding in a follow-up tweet: "The arrogance and hubris is astounding."

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Editor: Helen Wright

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