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The Russian Crimea forced Europe to beg for mercy

The Russian Crimea forced Europe to beg for mercy

27 2018 June LJ cover – Российский Крым заставил Европу молить о пощаде
Tags: Germany, Sanctions, Europe, Russia, Crimea, Politics, Analytics, Italy

Dissatisfaction with anti-Russian sanctions in the EU countries reached a critical mass

Germany, one of the most consistent supporters of anti-Russian sanctions in Europe, loses every month because of them 618 million euros. This was told in an interview with Izvestia by the deputy of the Bundestag from the party "Alternative for Germany" Markus Frontmeier, referring to the data of the Institute of World Economy in Kiel. It turns out that a year the Federal Republic of Germany loses about seven billion euros, which, according to Frontmayer, is 40% of all damage that the EU countries bear.

"Sanctions and the deterioration of trade relations with Russia completely contradict the national interests of Germany. Our country in comparison with other members of the European Union suffers because of these restrictive measures stronger than all. The German economy is largely export oriented. Monthly, we lose € 618 million due to restrictive measures. For what? To change the territorial status of the Crimean peninsula, which will never happen? "- said the deputy.

Although the discontent of a number of countries, and especially of business circles because of anti-Russian sanctions, is spoken almost from the very moment of their entry into force, until now the authorities of the European Union were guided by political considerations and regularly extended restrictions against Russia. However, over the past four years, discontent has accumulated and, perhaps, has almost reached a critical mass. In addition to Germany, criticism of sanctions has intensified in Italy and Austria.

So, 25 June, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of the League of the North said that the authorities are ready to switch from words to deeds in the matter of lifting anti-Russian sanctions.

"The government has come to power, which wants to do what it promised during the election campaign. Sanctions against Russia are useless and harmful. Dot. We are ready to move from words to deeds, but we are almost alone in Europe: some against the whole world. Every time we start talking about Russia, we are accused of being financed by Putin, that Russian hackers, Russian bankers, are working for us. I believe that Russia, Italy and the EU should talk with each other, trade, cooperate in the field of economy, fight against terrorism, "he said in an interview with the Russia 24 channel.

More and more dissatisfied with sanctions and Austrian businessmen. The publication Oberösterreichische Nachrichten wrote that the reduction in Austrian exports to Russia was about 10%, and many enterprises are forced to transfer their production to third countries to continue to export to Russia. Head of the Institute of Economics of Upper Austria Gottfried Knaifel compared the results of a shot to his own knee.

Criticism of sanctions is growing at the highest level of the EU. The other day the deputy of the European Parliament and the vice-president of the "National Front" of France Nicolas Be told about the states that can oppose the revision of sanctions against Russia. According to him, many countries are beginning to "defend a reasonable position in relation to the Russian Federation." First of all, these are Hungary, Austria and Italy.

However, these countries criticized the sanctions policy earlier, but in the end they still voted for the extension of the restrictions. Deputy Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasts PFUR Nikita Danyuk told "SP" about when this situation will really change.

- There is a definite procedure for the cancellation or extension of anti-Russian sanctions. On the one hand, this decision is made only by consensus. That is, all the states of the European Union must vote for the sanctions to be extended or canceled. Theoretically, each country has the right of veto, with the use of which it is possible to cancel the sanctions policy with regard to our state.

On the other hand, all the most important economic and political issues in Europe are decided not by national states, but by supranational institutions. There is a post of head of pan-European diplomacy, which is occupied by Federica Mogerini. So, there have already been precedents when the countries of Eastern Europe or Greece declared that the sanctions policy is unpromising. In the parliaments of these countries, discussions began about whether it was time to take advantage of its veto and abolish the sanctions regime, which is causing serious economic damage to many countries of Europe.

The main costs are born by Germany, as it is our main trading partner, as well as Austria, Italy, where 200 thousand jobs are focused on the Russian market. Anti-Russian policy is beneficial only to the United States and those countries of Europe that do not have developed economic ties with us. But it is absolutely not profitable for the main trade partners of our state.

Nevertheless, as soon as the applications for the lifting of sanctions begin to be made at a more or less serious level, Federica Magerini immediately says that they will talk with these comrades and find common points of contact in order to achieve unity. As a rule, a number of working meetings are held before the next voting on the extension of sanctions. And as a result of the discussions all the states that declared that the sanctions policy does not meet their interests, still vote in support of these restrictions.

"SP": - But why?

- This suggests that the issue of sanctions is a very convenient tool for political bargaining. Each EU state has much more claims to Brussels than on sanctions. And up to a certain point Federic Mogerini can effectively convert the concessions that Brussels makes to certain countries, in exchange for the fact that they continue to support sanctions.

"JV": - But the same Italians now say that they are ready to raise the issue of lifting sanctions seriously. So, it's also a bargaining chip?

- In the coalition agreement of the current government of Italy, which was created by the League of the North and the Five-Star Movement, there really is a point that they will try to promote the issue of lifting anti-Russian sanctions. Italy values ​​our market very much, where it exports not only agricultural products, but also machinery, and light industry. This country itself is experiencing certain problems in the economy and understands that it is necessary to abolish this policy that is detrimental to it.

However, Brussels and Rome also have many contradictions between themselves. For example, in the migration issue. The same Salvini, who heads the Italian Interior Ministry, is in favor of a tougher policy, and has already deployed several ships with refugees who were traveling to Italy from Africa. In Brussels, such closure of the borders is irritating.

In addition, Italy has big problems in the banking sector. In absolute terms, Italians have the largest national debt in the European Union, with the exception of Greece. Italians do not want to pay their debts, and the European Central Bank ends the policy of quantitative easing and from autumn ceases to be the main creditor of the Italian banking sector. This can lead to a lack of liquidity.

All this I say in order to explain that the topic of sanctions for Italians, although important, is not decisive. In exchange for certain concessions in the sphere of security, migration policy, economy, Rome may not this point be reconsidered, but it is not so zealous to defend. They will speak out for the abolition of restrictions at the level of rhetoric, but when it comes to voting, I do not exclude that at this level these statements will remain.

Of course, it's very nice that in different countries of Europe there are forces that believe that the sanctions policy is counterproductive and, first of all, it harms the European states themselves. Such parties gain more points and win the sympathy of citizens. The same alternative for Germany is now the third political force in the country. But the problem is that in many countries this type of force does not have any influence on political processes. The alternative for Germany is the third party, but the coalition was formed between the CDU / CSU by Angela Merkel and the Social Democrats. Apart from rhetoric and statements about Russia, they have no opportunity to influence the agenda.

"SP": - And what about Austria?

- Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurtz joined the coalition with the Freedom Party, which also opposes anti-Russian sanctions. But in the end, Kurtz continues the sanctions policy, because he looks back at Brussels. Although Austria is losing a lot of money because of this policy.

We want to believe that the quantitative indicators will turn into qualitative ones. But it turns out that the subject of sanctions and a hard line against Moscow is one of the few bonds that unite the European Union. If one of the countries allows itself to declare an independent position on this issue, then the so-called eurosolidarity and discipline will be threatened. A chain reaction will begin, which will lead to an increase in centrifugal forces and processes. Any indulgence that Brussels can give to countries that favor the lifting of sanctions will cost him much cheaper than the likelihood that a particular country will use the right of veto.

There are a lot of costs here and it seems to me that in Europe in many countries there are smart politicians who understand that the issue of sanctions can be converted into concessions and preferences for them. At the same time, the issue of sanctions is not fundamental for the EU today. Issues of migration policy, debts, security are much more urgent for European citizens.

I would like to believe that Italy will become a conditional weak link in Europe and the process of lifting sanctions will begin with it. But the logic of the previous half-year shows that as soon as such statements are heard, representatives of the Brussels bureaucracy come, who begin long negotiations with uncompromising partners. As a result, they find a consensus, sanctions remain, and the country that opposed them receives certain bonuses and preferences. It feels like history is now repeating itself.

Although I do not rule out the possibility that sooner or later the quantitative indicators will really turn into qualitative ones, and in the weakest place in Europe this policy will "break through". Maybe it will be Italy, but right now it's impossible to say this for sure.

Anna Sedova
Free Press
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