The heads of state and government meeting on 19 and 20 March in Brussels at a regular European Council did not, as some expected, extend the anti-Russian economic sanctions. It had been reported that due to a growing suspicion that some Member States, notably Greece, Hungary or some others, might block their extension in order to court Russia when these come to an end in July, Poland and the Baltic States pushed for an immediate action to be taken. The visa bans and asset freezes had already been extended earlier. The economic sanctions, including export bans on certain drilling technologies or access to capital markets for certain Russian banks, will, nevertheless, only be lifted if the Minsk II Agreement is fully implemented, the leaders agreed. Specifically, the European Council conclusions mention the full control of its border by Ukraine. Currently, vast parts of the border are controlled by the separatists, which enables arms and supply deliveries for the separatists from Russia. The Minsk II provides that the border control by Ukraine shall be re-established by the end of this year following a negotiated constitutional reform that would give more autonomy to the Eastern regions of Ukraine. Informally then, the leaders agreed to extend the sanctions at a later European Council, scheduled for June, and not lift them before the end of this year. As usual, the leaders called for thorough implementation of the ceasefire and other Minsk II measures, condemned the annexation of Crimea by Russia and declared support for the Ukrainian government in its reform struggle. Also, it called on the High Representative Mogherini to come up with a plan to counter Russian propaganda. This action plan on strategic communication is to be presented also at the June European Council.
Apart from Ukraine and Energy Union, the European Council focused also on Libya, Tunisia, Eastern Partnership upcoming summit, several economic issues and the Juncker investment plan.
6th October 2021
9th July 2021