Foreign ministers of the EU Member States met on 19 January in Brussels to hold a meeting of the FAC. Presided by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the ministers discussed how foreign policy can help the fight against terrorism at the EU level. According to the Council, more efforts will be made on the cooperation with the partner countries in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East on issues such as best practices exchange and information exchange. More concrete measures will be prepared for the February European Council.
On Russia, the foreign ministers agreed that no change in relations can be expected unless the Minsk deals are respected and fully implemented. As High Representative Mogherini stated after the meeting, there is no back to business as usual with Russia now. However, the EU will continue to cooperate with Russia on matters of global importance and will explore the possibility of a more technical dialogue on sectoral agendas, such as energy. Following an offensive of the rebel forces in South-Eastern Ukraine on Mariupol during the weekend, High Representative Mogherini, European Council President Tusk and several EU leaders issued statements that if the hostilities continue, the EU will impose additional sanctions. Also, a new meeting of EU foreign ministers was called for this week.
Meanwhile, the European Commission agreed with Russia on a mechanism of lifting Russian food import bans from the EU. Russian bans are based on questionable health concerns. According to a compromise deal struck in Berlin last week, Russia will be allowed to lift its ban on selected products from some Member States. While some see this as a goodwill gesture and a framework for a possible complete lifting of the import bans, others see a divide et impera strategy exercised by Russia. Selective ban lifting could enable Russia to ease the pressure on its friends inside the EU, while continuing to punish those who oppose the Russian view.
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