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Brussels must find way to engage with Russia despite no bloc-wide consensus over how to deal with Putin, says EU foreign minister

Brussels must find way to engage with Russia despite no bloc-wide consensus over how to deal with Putin, says EU foreign minister
With the diplomatic relationship between Moscow and Brussels at a historic low point, the European Union should look for new ways to engage with Russia, and the bloc should seriously consider how best to establish a new dialogue.

That’s according to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, who told Spanish newspaper El Pais that there is a lot of disagreement within the Union over how to handle Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

“We had a mandate from the European Council to produce a report analyzing the current situation and the prospects of a relationship that is at its lowest point in many years,” Borrell said.

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However, on the eve of its presentation, France and Germany announced their intention to suggest a meeting between Putin and the 27 EU member states. The proposal was rejected.

“One might think that if [US President] Joe Biden met with Putin, why can’t European leaders? But between Biden and Russia, there is the Atlantic Ocean, and for some European countries, the only thing separating them from Russia is the border fence,” he explained, noting that the bloc should come up with another way to reach an understanding with Moscow.

“I am also not so sure that the most appropriate format is Putin surrounded by the EU27. First, the 27 would all have to agree on what to say to Putin,” Borrell said.

His comments come despite suggestions from Russia that Moscow is no longer willing to engage with the EU as a whole, and would prefer to speak bilaterally with each individual nation.

The EU high representative is a controversial figure when it comes to his stance on Russia. Last February, he visited Moscow for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and appeared to be very positive about the summit. However, on his return to Brussels, the trip was slammed by certain Eurocrats as “humiliating,” with Borrell being attacked for standing silently by while Lavrov called the EU an “unreliable partner.”

A few days later, Borrell performed a U-turn and criticized Moscow for failing to “seize the opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue,” and accused the Russians of choosing “aggression” over diplomacy.

The change in heart seemingly came after Riho Terras, an Estonian MEP, penned a letter asking European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to fire Borrell. It was signed by 73 other members of parliament.

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