EU relations with Russia were the subject of an “in-depth discussion” during yesterday’s meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council (the “Council“), according to the published ‘Outcome of the Council Meeting‘. Commenting on the meeting in her formal remarks, EU High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini described the discussion as “long, very in-depth and useful“, but warned that “starting a strategic debate does not mean and has not meant changing the course of our [EU] relations with Russia“. She emphasised that the EU’s position in respect of Russia remains “unified“.

As regards any review of EU sanctions policy towards Russia, Mogherini stated “any decision will be based on, first of all, the non-recognition policy of the annexation of Crimea and on the full implementation of the Minsk agreements, on the situation on the ground” and noted “again today, the situation on the ground is definitely much worse than in the last weeks.” Mogherinirevealed that the discussion had focussed on “what we add, not on what we change” and indicated the sanctions regime is “not changing and is most probably not going to change“.

It was agreed during the meeting that it would be useful to (1) engage in “more diplomatic efforts, in any format, to contribute to solving the crisis” and a “political dialogue on global and regional issues, being it Syria or the Iranian talks on nuclear, or the Middle East Peace Process or again some of the regional crises we have – be it in Afghanistan or in Libya – and major global challenges like climate change and counter terrorism where we do have an interest in having a political dialogue on global and regional issues with Russia“, and (2)“explore further, at technical level, some options for sectorial dialogues on, in particular, a couple of fields“, including energy.

Mogherini stated that the Council would re-address EU relations with Russia in their subsequent meetings, which we understand are currently scheduled to take place on 9 February and 16 March 2015.

By Ross Denton and Sunny Mann (Baker & McKenzie London)