Paris – German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday warned of “dark clouds” gathering over the European Union’s relations with Russia.
Several crisis surrounding the EU
Europe “without or in opposition to Russia … will not be safer,” Maas told a seminar for French ambassadors to European countries in Paris.
But, he said, sanctions must remain in place as long as the Kremlin does not change its behaviour.
The German foreign minister, who currently chairs the EU Foreign Affairs Council, said Europe must be able to “independently defuse crises within its neighbourhood” to remain an attractive ally for the United States.
Maas‘ host, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, also insisted on the need for Europe to stand up for its interests, citing the eastern Mediterranean gas exploration dispute between Greece and Turkey.
“When one of us is confronted with a policy of fait accompli, an aggressive and unjustifiable policy, we must respond collectively, because it is a threat to our sovereignty and to the interests of the union,” Le Drian insisted.
To leave European security in the eastern Mediterranean “in the hands of other actors” would be “a grave error,” the French minister said.
France has taken an assertive stance against Turkey’s claims in the eastern Mediterranean as well as Ankara’s military backing for the internationally recognized government in the Libyan civil war.
Germany, by contrast, has sought to mediate in the gas dispute – so far without success. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the two approaches are complementary.
Collaboration of all member states is needed
EU foreign ministers on Friday threatened Turkey with further sanctions, but left any decision on the matter to a summit due to be held on September 24.
Le Drian said that the Franco-German relationship, long seen as the political motor of the European Union, was “stronger and more necessary than ever.”
But Maas noted that the pair still had to work together with other member states.
“German-French compromises are an indispensable prerequisite for progress in Europe. But they alone are not enough,” he said with reference to relations with Russia.
“Of course the view of Moscow is different in Warsaw or Tallinn compared to Lisbon or Rome,” he argued.
Regarding Brexit, Maas noted that Italy, Spain and Poland had a large responsibility in shaping foreign policy.
On that note, Le Drian lamented that no progress had been made in talks on the EU’s future relationship with Britain, blaming London’s “intransigent, and to be honest, unrealistic attitude.”
Maas‘ trip came although Germany issued a travel warning for the Paris region about a week ago, due to rising numbers of coronavirus infections.
Maas has travelled to areas deemed high-risk before, including Lebanon and Uganda.