EU leaders arrived in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss Covid-19, economic recovery, migration and relations with Turkey and Russia. France and Germany have reportedly called for a new EU strategy of closer engagement with Moscow, angering some countries.

On the eve of the EU summit, the Financial Time reported that “Germany and France have called for a strategy of closer engagement” with Russia, citing diplomats who said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, supported by French President Emmanuel Macron, “wanted the EU plans to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin “to a summit with EU leaders. The FT claims that other European allies have been caught “off guard”.

The Russian question will dominate EU discussions on foreign relations. Tensions with Moscow escalated this week after reports that Russian natural gas exports by pipeline fell by around 20% in 2021, despite growing demand from EU countries, forcing prices up.

A possible EU-Russia summit, like the meeting between Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden last week, could help calm the spirits.

The proposal, however, was criticized by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said that “initiatives to resume EU summits with Russia without seeing any progress on the part of Russia would constitute a dangerous deviation from the EU sanctions policy “.

Moscow is at odds with a number of Western capitals after a build-up of Russian troops at Ukraine’s borders and a series of spy scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Prisoners of conscience

Meanwhile, rights groups called on the EU to step up its commitment to improving fundamental rights and the rule of law in Turkey, another topic of discussion at the Council meeting of Turkey. the EU.

In a letter addressed to the President of the Council of the EU, Charles Michel, signed by 15 human rights organizations, the EU is invited to “call on the Turkish government to release all prisoners of conscience”, to implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and to stress that the failure to respect human rights will slow down the upgrading of the EU-Turkey customs union.

Recovery plan

EU leaders will also take stock of the ongoing work to vaccinate citizens against the Covid-19 virus and, according to a statement issued by the Council, “will continue coordination efforts” while scrutinizing “the remaining related obstacles the right of free movement “. across the EU “.

Other topics to be discussed are how to implement a € 672.5 billion stimulus package aimed at getting EU countries back on track after the pandemic, and migration issues, including ” entry and residence conditions for highly qualified non-European nationals “.

The Council summit will be followed, on June 25, by a euro summit, where EU leaders will discuss economic challenges for the euro area “in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis”.

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