Tag Archives: EU

EU to widen Russia sanctions #MH17


EU ministers have been meeting in Brussels to discuss tightening sanctions against Russia for backing the rebel separatist fighters blamed for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane.

There is widespread anger over the plane crash in eastern Ukraine, in which 298 people died.

A statement after the talks said that the EU would prepare “proposals for taking action, including on access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods, and sensitive technologies, including in the energy sector”.

Gavin Hewitt reports from Brussels.

Bloomberg: France prepared to cancel warship sale to Russia


A group of expatriates and local residents rally at the French Embassy in Kyiv on June 1 to protest France's sale of two warships worth $1.6 billion to Russia. © Kostyantyn ChernichkinA group of expatriates and local residents rally at the French Embassy in Kyiv on June 1 to protest France’s sale of two warships worth $1.6 billion to Russia. © Kostyantyn Chernichkin

French President Francois Hollande said he’s prepared to cancel the sale of a second Mistral helicopter carrier ship to Russia if the European Union decides to expand its sanctions against Russia.

The second ship, due in 2016, hasn’t yet been paid for, making it possible to withhold the sale if the EU agrees to broaden its measures on Russia, Hollande said yesterday at the annual presidential press dinner.

At the same time, sanctions can’t be retroactive and wouldn’t cover delivery of the Vladivostok, the first Mistral warship, which is already paid for and due for delivery in October, Hollande said.

“Can the rest of the contract be honored?” Hollande told reporters in Paris about the second warship part of a contract with Russia. “That will depend on Russia’s attitude.”

EU foreign ministers are meeting today in Brussels to consider further sanctions punishing Russia in light of evidence that separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down a Malaysian airliner last week with 298 passengers on board. The sanctions described by Hollande would need to be decided at the level of national leaders, so no such decision would come today.

The U.S. and European countries have pressured France to delay or cancel the delivery of the Mistral ships after Russian annexed the Crimea and was accused of fomenting separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine.

Company Sanctions

“With so many European Union citizens lost in the Malaysian Airlines crash, it is hard to see how the French Mistral deal can go ahead,” Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank Plc in London, said in an e-mail before Hollande made his remarks. “The British seem prepared to stomach enhanced financial sector sanctions, which the French had argued that they had to see before pulling the Mistral deal.”

The EU has already imposed what are known as Level 2 sanctions, which target specific persons and companies, because of Russian support for Ukrainian separatists.

A further step — which has been the source of dispute within the EU — would be Level 3 sanctions that apply to entire economic sectors such as the defense, banking and energy industries. While hitting Russia harder, those measures would also have a greater cost to the European nations.

The Mistral is a 200-meter (656-foot) ship, capable of carrying as many as 700 combat troops, 16 helicopters and 60 armored vehicles. It is built by state-owned military contractor DCNS and the shipbuilder STX in Saint-Nazaire, where 400 Russian sailors arrived last month to train on the Vladivostok.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was quoted yesterday by the Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency as saying that he doubted France would break the Mistral contract.

“Billions of euros are involved,” he said, according to the state-owned news agency. “The French are very pragmatic.”

Russia is buying the Mistrals with French equipment, including combat navigation devices, and will arm them with its own weaponry, according to Itar-Tass.


Bloomberg.

Ukraine, EU take big step towards each other


European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (L), head of European Council Herman Van Rumpuy (C) and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shake hands after signing the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU on June 27 in Brussels.European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (L), head of European Council Herman Van Rumpuy (C) and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko shake hands after signing the economic part of the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU on June 27 in Brussels. © President Petro Poroshenko’s press office

By signing an economic part of the association agreement with the European Union on June 27, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko finally ​completed a deal that triggered a revolution ​toppling his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, for backing out of the same agreement.

Poroshenko used the same pen to ink the document in Brussels ​that Yanukvoych was supposed to use during the Nov. 29 summit in Vilnius​, but resisted despite hours of persuasion from European officials that night.

This time​,​ E​uropean Union  leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy did not have to persuade​ or cajole anybody​. Poroshenko eagerly signed with leaders of bloc’s 28 countries. ​The political part of the association agreement was signed ​earlier, ​on March 21, ​during the post-revolutionary interim presidency of Oleksandr Turchynov.​The​ economic part is focused on establishing free trade regime between Ukraine and the EU, country’s biggest trading partner with $51.4 billion in ​trade ​2013. ​By comparison, trad​e ​with Russia reached $45 billion last year, while Ukraine’s dependence on Gazprom’s gas and providing gas transportation system for the needs of Russian gas monopolist inflate the figure.  Continue reading

EU plays hardball with Russia on gas issue


The European Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built.The European Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built. © http://www.gazprom.com/

Although the European Union, Ukraine, and Russia have yet to reach an agreement on Ukraine’s gas bill, over the past several weeks it has become clear that the EU holds strong cards in its gas relationship with Russia and is using them effectively.

The Bulgarian government last week bowed to the inevitable, accepting the demands of the European Commission to suspend construction of their parts of Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline designed to bypass Ukraine and bring Russian gas to Europe via a new southern corridor.

The Commission has ruled that the intergovernmental agreements underpinning South Stream with all the countries along its route, which include Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia, do not comply with EU competition law and require revision before the pipeline can be built.

The Commission has also, and perhaps more pointedly, begun to investigate the tender process that led to the award of a $4.7 billion contract for the construction of the Bulgarian section of the pipeline to a consortium headed by the Russian company Stroytransgaz. Stroytransgaz’s owner is sanctioned billionaire and Putin ally, Gennady Timchenko.

Sofia’s decision is a blow to Russia that will delay its long-standing effort to separate its relations with Ukraine from its European gas business. If built, South Stream’s capacity of 63 billion cubic meters per year will reduce Russia’s gas transit dependency on Ukraine to zero by 2020. Russia currently exports around 50 precent of its gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, and the alternative route offered by South Stream would deprive Ukraine of a critical source of influence in its relationship with both Russia and Europe.

Of course, not all the countries through which the South Stream pipeline passes have bowed down to EU pressure. After meeting with his Serbian counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Serbia would begin building its stretch of the pipeline next month.

By challenging the legality of South Stream, however, the Commission has kicked the project into the long grass and forced Russia to seek an alternative solution to the vexed issue of gas transit through Ukraine.  Continue reading

Government portal: Under the current circumstances bilateral negotiations between Ukraine and Russia cannot be appropriate


Government portal

“Under the current circumstances any bilateral negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are considered inappropriate,” the Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk stressed on Wednesday, May 21, in Mykolayiv during the Third inclusive National Unity Roundtable.

He explained that Russia had launched military aggression on the territory of Ukraine, “destroyed European security system, violated the international law and the UN Charter in which Ukraine and Russia were co-founders”.

“Hence, to restore relations with Russia we suggest resuming these relations in a quadripartite format at first. We don’t believe in words, not to mention that Russia has violated the signed agreement,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk highlighted.

The Head of Government stressed the Ukrainian party was ready to Geneva-2 format: Ukraine – EU – U.S.A. – Russia: “However, ahead of the meeting we should be aware what will be our understandings. Instead of just meeting and then leaving without any understandings or using these meetings just for the political pandering”.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Ukraine Government portal