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European Union Likely to Extend Sanctions against Russia (6/19)     Print Email

By Jamie Connolly, Editorial Assistant

Nervousness about whether the 28 EU member states would stand united in renewing sanctions against Russia abated when EU ambassadors in Brussels agreed in principle to extend the existing sanctions---subject to formal approval by European Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg on June 22nd.

Unanimity is required by all 28 EU member states in order for the existing sanctions to be extended past July 31. The focus of the meeting in Luxembourg will focus solely on the extension of existing sanctions imposed on Russia. The sanctions targeted Russia’s biggest state owned banks, major energy companies and their most influential defense contractors. Sanctions were also imposed on 151 Russian officials, members of the Russian Leadership’s inner circle and those entities with involvements connected to the situation in Ukraine.  

Early indications suggest that counter-sanctions from Russia will not be changed, including bans of all beef, pork, fruit, vegetables and dairy products and travel restrictions placed on certain European officials. Economic Minister Alexei Ulyukayev commented on Wednesday that Russia was “unlikely to introduce new measures to the extent of EU sanctions” but was likely to “extend the current food embargo.”

LagardeandVaroufakis062015

Yet, questions remain about maintaining EU solidarity on the sanctions extension. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is back in Russia, ostensibly to attend the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum and meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin for the second time in as many months. Given the increasingly tense status of negotiations over Greece’s bailout program and the country’s potential default on a €1.5 billion repayment due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on June 30th, there is renewed concern that President Putin may offer the cash starved nation a hefty loan in exchange for a “no” vote on extending EU sanctions. (Picture shows face off between Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis and IMF chief Christine Lagarde.)

Eurozone leaders have been summoned to an emergency summit in Brussels by European Council President Donald Tusk in a final push to find a solution to Greece’s debt crisis. They will also be meeting on Monday, June 22nd.