While European lawmakers were scolding the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell for his ill-fated trip to Russia, European Council President Charles Michel has announced he will be travelling to Ukraine and Georgia in March.
The Council President will visit the two countries in conflict over their territory with the Kremlin “to stress the EU’s position of support to their sovereignty and territorial integrity”, a spokesperson said.
Ukraine has been locked in conflict with Russia over its annexation of the Crimean peninsula and support for the Eastern separatist forces that have been waging a war with Kyiv since 2014.
Georgia, meanwhile, has been attempting to bring international attention over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the two regions it lost after its brief war with Russia in August 2008, which the Strasbourg-seated European Court of Human Rights recently recognised as “effectively controlled” by Russia.
Both countries have announced their intention to join the EU, with Georgia setting the target of submitting an official application by 2024, though so far their signals have received a cold-shoulder from enlargement-fatigued Brussels.
The trip to is also likely to appease the Russia hawks in the European Parliament, who have been calling for more support for Tbilisi and Kyiv.
“We have to make efforts to reverse the bad impression made by Josep Borrell‘s visit to Moscow,” said Anna Fotyga an MEP from the eurosceptic European Conservatives & Reformists (ECR).
“The best way to do this is to immediately stop Nord Stream 2, and for Mr Borrell to make urgent trips to Kyiv and Tbilisi,” the Polish lawmaker added.
We have to make efforts to reverse the bad impression made by @JosepBorrellF's visit to #Moscow. The best way to do this is to immediately stop #NordStream2, and for Mr Borrell to make urgent trips to #Kiev and #Tbilisi.
— ECR Group (@ecrgroup) February 9, 2021
A discussion about relations with Russia was on the agenda during Michel’s meeting with Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal in Brussels on Tuesday (9 February).
“The aggressive Russian stance during the visit of the High Representative shows that Russia is not interested in dialogue even in those areas where cooperation could be of mutual – or global – interest,” Michel’s spokesperson said after the meeting.
“The EU will not be intimidated,” he added.
Though yet unconfirmed, Michel may also now include EU-Russia relations as a brief point on the agenda of the 25-26 February videosummit of EU leaders, which is also set to include a “strategic debate” on European security and defence policy.
A more thorough discussion on Russia was already announced for the summit of EU leaders on 25-26 March.
Sanctions against Moscow may now be on the table, after Borrell hardened his stance following the trip that indicated that EU-Russian relations have hit rock-bottom.
“It will be for the member states to decide the next step, but yes, this could include sanctions, and I will put forward concrete proposals using the right of initiative that the high representative has,” Borrell told the European Parliament on Tuesday.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox and Georgi Gotev]