Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) was in Brussels on Monday for a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council, where he and his colleagues discussed the situation in Ukraine and met with Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin.
The Council condemned Russia's activities in the Azov Sea and called on Russia to immediately return the Ukrainian vessels, release the crew members, and, under international law, guarantee that vessels from Ukraine and other countries can pass through the Kerch Strait and sail in the Sea of Azov unhindered, according to a ministry press release.
"In recent years, we have observed a certain dangerous pattern in Russia's behaviour, which has resulted in Russian control extending to new areas," Mikser said. "The EU's response cannot be limited to joint statements in such situations, we must take concrete steps."
He pointed out that Estonia supports introducing additional individual restrictive measures and extending the deadline of economic sanctions targeting specific economic sectors from six months to a year.
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini likewise reaffirmed that supporting Ukraine is a priority for the EU, and that in the light of current violations against international law, the EU is seeking additional opportunities to support Ukraine both politically and via development cooperation.
Mikser noted that Estonia has actively supported Ukraine for years, including in the Mariupol area. "We must find more opportunities to support Ukraine together in these difficult and dangerous circumstances," he stressed.
The foreign ministers also added nine persons to the sanctions list on Monday due to their involvement in the so-called "election" in the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Luhansk People's Republic."
In discussing the situation in the Western Balkans, Mikser noted that Estonia supports the Euro-Atlantic integration of the region, one of the objectives of which is the stability of the EU neighbourhood.
"We hope that accession negotiations with [the Former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia and Albania can begin next summer," he noted.
The Council also discussed EU-African Union (AU) relations ahead of the EU-AU ministerial meeting to be held on 21-22 January in Brussels. Mikser affirmed that Estonia supports strong cooperation between the two unions based on common values and shared interests.
Editor: Aili Vahtla