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27/09/2016

Lithuania seeks to preserve UK ties against Russia

Global Europe

Lithuania seeks to preserve UK ties against Russia

Linas Linkevičius [European Council]

Lithuania, which looked to Britain to help toughen the EU line on Russia, said yesterday (27 June) it wanted the European Union to preserve all that it could of its ties with London after the Brexit vote.

“We would like to preserve what is not yet destroyed, what is possible to preserve,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told reporters at the United Nations.

Will Brexit make the EU more pro-Russian?

Asked if Brexit will make the EU more pro-Russian, international experts with different backgrounds approached by EurActiv were not unanimous in their assessment. However all said that without the UK, the EU will be weaker internationally.

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The foreign minister said while there was a need for “clarity” after Britain’s vote to leave, Lithuania, for one, was not “rushing to expel Britain.”

France and Italy, but also the European Commission, have urged Britain to move quickly to exit, while Germany and others have taken a more cautious stance.

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European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted he is “basically not a fan of referendums”, and ruled out further EU-UK negotiations, the day before Britons vote on whether to remain in or leave the bloc.

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Lubomír Zaorálek, the Czech foreign minister, has asked Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to resign, as in his words, someone in the EU institutions should take “responsibility” for last week’s vote by British citizens to leave the European Union.

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Pressure is building on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to resign following the UK referendum, but also over the need to “change the habits” of his way to run the EU executive over the last two years.

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Linkevičius expressed worries that “the voices of the more principled positions will be weaker” within the EU when it comes to dealing with Russia.

His remarks came ahead of an EU meeting this week that is expected to roll over economic sanctions that were imposed against Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea and sent troops to back separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow denies it is supporting the separatists.

France and Germany have called for a shift in the approach to sanctions toward Russia, but Britain has maintained a hard line, saying there should be no let-up without progress on ending the conflict in Ukraine.

Germany, Austria favour gradual phasing out of Russia sanctions

The German and Austrian foreign ministers said that EU sanctions on Russia should be gradually phased out as the peace process progresses, abandoning previous positions that sanctions could be lifted only if the Minsk peace plan is fully implemented.

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Linkevičius criticized EU states who advocate a “more pragmatic and flexible” approach to sanctions against Russia as “very counter-productive” and said the response to ineffective sanctions should be “more sanctions”.

France wants EU summit to discuss Russia sanctions

France on Monday (20 June) called for EU leaders to have a full discussion on the future of economic sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine, even though they are expected to be rolled over shortly.

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The foreign minister said he had discussed Britain’s vote to leave the European Union with his counterparts from the Baltics and Scandinavia, who all agreed that there should be a “civilized process” for new relations.

He described Britain as a “strategic ally” to advance security, human rights and democracy in Europe.

Rght-wing Polish politician Jarosław Kaczyński earlier Monday said he would like to see Britain hold a second referendum on EU membership.

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