Inspired by the recent meeting between Biden and Putin, the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and the French President Emmanuel Macron proposed a combined EU/Russia summit at the last EU council summit; the idea was also supported by Mario Draghi, the Italian Prime Minister. In the end, however, the proposal was rejected after a number of states which border with Russia raised their objections.
Germany as well as France for quite some time now hinted at the possibility of re-setting the EU-Russia relations, both countries believe that the EU should work closely with Russia on issues like climate change, both would also like to see a stabilization in the relations between the two. Italy on the other side, a big exporter and investor in Russian energy, would ideally like to see some of the sanctions which were put on Russia disappear, one of the biggest supporters of lifting the EU sanctions on Russia is Mateo Salvini the leader of Lega. In a number of interviews, he was critical of the sanctions and the EU’s approach towards Russia.
The new leader of Germany’s CDU, Armin Laschet, will very likely continue Merkel’s domestic policies if he becomes Chancellor after this year’s federal elections, however, unlike Merkel want to take a different approach when it comes to Russia. In a recent interview for Deutsche Welle he stated that with Russia 'you have to talk more, not less' he also praised Biden for meeting with Putin and called those who call for a tougher approach when it comes to EU-Russia relations to say what they mean by it.
As soon as the idea of the meeting was announced many of the ex-soviet bloc EU members which directly border with Russia began raising their objections, among them were Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Putin must ‘stop’ aggressive policies and that a meeting could not be held between the EU and Russia as long as Russia occupies Crimea and support the separatists in Donbas, the Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins argued that Russia might actually see the summit as a reward while the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda summed up the idea as "trying to engage the bear to keep a pot of honey safe". Some leaders like Mark Rutte for example expressed a view that there was nothing wrong with the President of the EU Council and the EU Commission meeting Vladimir Putin adding that he would choose not to participate in such a meeting.
Macron concluded the meeting that the summit was not a top priority and that unity on the issue within the bloc is more important. It is without a doubt that for both Merkel and Macron the rejection of the EU/Russia summit proposal was a blow especially since last week’s EU summit was probably the last one attended by the German Chancellor who will not be seeking another term. The Baltic states and Poland on the other side achieved great success in blocking the proposal of the ‘old member’ and two of the richest states within the bloc.