Swoboda: We don’t want an economic war with Russia


Europeans need jobs. A trade war would harm EU economies, some of them more seriously than others, Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialists and Democrats, told EURACTIV during the EU summit today (20 March), adding that the European centre-left is ”realistic”.

Hannes Swoboda is an Austrian MEP, leader of the centre-left Socialists and Democrats group, in the European Parliament.

He spoke to EURACTIV’s Senior Editor, Georgi Gotev

Listening today to several Prime Ministers from your political family, I was left with the impression that the Socialists and Social Democrats are the “doves” in regards to further sanctions on Russia. How would you comment?

We are realistic. We don’t want to have a real economic war. Of course we don’t want a military war, but we don’t want to have an economic war, because who would be the victim? Ukraine itself. Ukraine is depending on [Russian] gas, on oil, but not only on these resources. I think it’s wise to be calm, and to go for a political solution.

Let me contradict you. You say that sanctions are bad for Ukraine. But the Ukrainian ambassador to the EU, with whom I spoke, appeals for the strongest possible sanctions…

Look, talk is one thing, and reality is another. I don’t want to go into details, but I know some representatives of this government, who represented another government some time before, saying totally different things. So let’s calm down. I think it would be much better to have a reasonable policy, and be prepared if Russia goes for more aggression, but not [initiate] developments, if we don’t know what the results will be. Because if we start economic sanctions, Russia will retaliate, and where is the end? We have an economic crisis. People want jobs. We want to export. So let’s be reasonable.

Does being reasonable mean that we accept that Crimea is gone? Some opinions hold that if EU leaders don’t move to economic sanctions, this would mean that they have forgotten about Crimea.

The fact is that Crimea is now occupied. It’s a de facto situation. We should never recognise it. But with economic sanctions, Crimea will not go back. So, no recognition of what happened. Make it clear to the Russians that of course it would affect our relations, but not start a war, in which many countries would have much to lose. But not as much as Germany, and other countries with a higher level of engagement with Russia.

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