In spite of sharp controversy among member states in regards to future relations with Moscow, the European Union decided on 21 December to extend sanctions adopted against Russia in response to the aggression in Ukraine for six additional months.
This decision was made due to fact that Minsk agreement is not likely to be implemented before the end of the year, as mentioned in the EU announcement.
«Since the Minsk agreements will not be fully implemented by 31 December 2015, the duration of the sanctions has been prolonged whilst the Council continues its assessment of progress in implementation», as mentioned in the announcement.
At first it seemed the decision regarding the sanctions’ extension would be a mere formality and that it would be approved by member state deputies at the beginning of December.
This decision was, however, put off. This is because multiple member states, especially Italy, expressed doubts in regards to continuing to exact pressure on Moscow with the Ukraine matter while Europe searches for Russia’s support in a number of other international problems, including the crisis in Syria.
Italy, which has always had close relations with Russia, states this matter has to be discussed by leaders of member states.
In spite of efforts, however, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi failed to add the Ukrainian matter to the official agenda of the summit.
«I find it surprising that we want to approve sanctions without even the smallest initial discussions,» – said Renzi after the last summit of EU leaders.
His dissatisfaction with this was made greater with Germany’s decision to support Nord Stream 2 project, which provides for the construction of the second stage of the gas pipeline that will be established on the seabed of the Baltic Sea and will connect Russia and Germany directly and pass all transit countries in-between, including Ukraine.
Rome believes this demonstrates Berlin’s double standards in a time when other member states are forced to sacrifice their interests to exact pressure on Moscow.
President of the EU Council Donald Tusk admitted after the summit that Nord Stream discussions were especially heated and emotional.
Sanctions against Russian banking, oil and defence sectors were initially adopted in 2014 following the shooting down of the Malaysian passenger plane above Ukrainian territories held by pro-Russian militants.
In June 2015, Europe decided to extend sanctions for six additional months, until January 2016. Now the sanctions will be extended by another six months.
In addition to economic sanctions, Europe has established travel restrictions and freezing assets owned by individuals in Russia and Ukraine who are directly responsible for the military aggression or its support.