Europe: Russian and Chinese threat ‘is increasing’ says Beaune
Josep Borrell travelled to the Russian capital in a bid to pressurise the Kremlin into releasing jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. But his diplomatic mission ended with three European diplomats being expelled from the country. Mr Borrell’s spokesman said: “Of course he has no regrets. He is a diplomat and diplomacy is about engaging.”
And European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen was said to have “fully supported” his visit to Moscow, despite a number of European capitals deriding his decision.
During Mr Borrell’s visit, Moscow expelled diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden for attending a protest for the release of Mr Navalny.
The EU’s top foreign diplomat only learnt about the expulsions on social media.
One Estonian MEP, a former military commander, is collecting signatures from colleagues calling for Mr Borrell to resign.
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Riho Terras, of the European People’s Party, says he has 50 over MEPs supporting his bid to oust the EU’s foreign affairs chief.
“The visit itself was a total disaster,” Mr Terras told Euronews.
“Russia showed everything possible to humiliate the EU’s highest diplomat.
“I understand you want to have have dialogue. But if one is playing ice hockey, the other cannot do figure skating. And that’s what happened in Moscow: Russia’s foreign minister played Mr Borrell around and humiliated him.”
His letter calls for Mrs von der Leyen to “take action if Mr Borrell does not resign by his own accord”.
He argues that the Spanish diplomat “repeatedly failed to defend the European Union’s interests”.
Mr Terras also hits out at Mr Borrell endorsing Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine and urging EU regulators to give the jab the green-light despite the concern of experts over its efficacy tests.
He said Brussels should follow the example of the handling of former trade commissioner Phil Hogan.
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The Irishman was sacked for attending a lockdown-busting golf dinner in his homeland, which Mr Terras claims are “much lesser crimes” than Mr Borrell’s actions in Russia.
The Commission’s chief spokesman said: “A trip is not a success or a failure based on what happens in just one part of that trip but the whole trip, and also on the lessons that can be learned from the trip, and our relationship with Russia.”
In a blog post published on Sunday, Mr Borrell also defended his trip, claiming he had been vocal in demanding Mr Navalny’s release.
He wrote: “An aggressively-staged press conference and the expulsion of three EU diplomats during my visit indicate that the Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU.”
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Germany, Poland and Sweden have since expelled Russian diplomats in a tit-for-tat retaliation for Moscow’s decision to give their representatives the boot.
The German foreign ministry said Russia’s move to expel their diplomat was “in no way justified”.
“The German diplomat in question had merely exercised his function pursuant to the Convention on Diplomatic Relations of observing developments in Russia by lawful means,” Berlin added.
Poland’s diplomatic representative in Brussels hosted a virtual meeting of EU27 ambassadors, as well as figures from the UK, US, Ukraine and Canada, with Mr Navalny’s allies.
Slapping Russia with possible sanctions was discussed by the participates.
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