The European Union isn't ready to extend economic sanctions on Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, something that will be decided upon next week at a European Council summit, according to EU sources. The unwillingness to take immediate action is partly an effort to let a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine hold together, but also a bid by member states to help their own economies that are suffering under a ban on certain business with Russia. The EU’s round of sanctions expires in mid-July.
While a decision won’t be made until the European Council summit, an anonymous EU official told Reuters there wasn’t a sign of unanimity over extending the sanctions. There are fears that further sanctions would stoke the smoldering flames in eastern Ukraine, which is still being treated as a war zone by the Ukrainian military and its pro-Russian separatist foes.
While both sides have largely adhered to provisions laid out in a ceasefire deal signed last month between leaders in Minsk, Belarus, there have been sporadic instances of fighting and unconfirmed rumors that the rebels, backed by Russia, are planning an offensive in the east. Most of the previous ceasefires disintegrated soon after being put in place, including the predecessor to February’s deal in Minsk that was signed in September by warring parties but still led to some of the worst fighting seen in the conflict. That gave many reason to doubt February’s deal would hold.
“The ceasefire needs to be supported and we will hardly support it by saying that we will bring some new and further and further sanctions,” Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said Friday, according to Reuters. “But at the end of the day I have no reason to go against the unity of the European Union as such.”
An end to the sanctions would help the Russian economy and the countless European companies that typically do business in Russia. Spanish Foreign Minister Manuel Garcia-Margallo addressed that Tuesday in a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Spain’s agricultural sector is suffering the most under the sanctions, he said, adding that sanctions “are beneficial to no one.” But that view isn’t shared by all European leaders. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said it was too early to let sanctions expire and that Europe needed more assurance the ceasefire was being properly implemented: