EU Summit: careful walk through the minefield

Author : Bernd Rieger

Source : 112 Ukraine

2016 year, complicated by crises, ended up with the EU summit, which dealt with all the difficulties and conflicts - from Syria, Turkey, and Ukraine to migration, debt, and Brexit
19:03, 19 December 2016

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28 countries could only find minimum common denominators. They managed to avoid the open display of controversy and disunity in many specific issues. The summit looked like a political minefield where the moves should be done very carefully. But regarding the conflict in Syria they demonstrated certain unity. Although, despite the dramatic events in Aleppo, no important decisions taken was not, not to mention some concrete action. Instead, there were a lot of words, accusations, convictions, appeals, and offers help to people who find themselves in trouble. But the EU was not able to real impact.

Related: Juncker sees no arguments for lifting sanctions against Russia

Sanctions against Iran or through interference in military conflicts do not work; many countries are  against new penalties for Vladimir Putin. It is also, they say, is meaningless, because it did not scare Putin, maximum - trigger, says the general consensus. Simple but clear formula is: no European wants to die for Syria, as said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Related: Nervous summit: How Ukraine lost, and than returned chances on visa-free regime

With certain difficulties 28 heads of state and government still managed to find unity in another respect. Sanctions against Russia because of military conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea annexation were prolonged for six months. The peace process remains on the agenda - but even here, the EU lacks the means of pressure and real options. Sanctions have not scare anyone in the Kremlin.

Related: Juncker: Ukraine could get visa free regime by late 2016

The controversy surrounding the association agreement Ukraine and the EU also failed to settle permanently. Despite the ratification document 27 other EU countries, the head of government of the Netherlands Mark Rutte doubt that parliament of his country will ever approve an agreement with Ukraine. Ryutte has the experience of losing referendum, which have fueled populist sentiment against Ukraine, EU, migration, and other possible problems. In March, the Dutch elect parliament. So the situation is quite complicated.

Related: Poroshenko held talks with Tusk, Schulz and Juncker in Brussels

If the Netherlands does not ratify the association agreement soon, it will expire. This will be a heavy blow to Ukrainian citizens, who in 2014 came to the revolution for the association and suffered a lot of casualties. But the ruler of Russia Vladimir Putin would be pleased. He can watch how the is self-distructing.

The failure of the agreement with Ukraine will be also a fatal signal to the Western Balkan countries aspiring to EU. Their accession can be blocked by any referendum anywhere in the EU, since EU enlargement must be approved unanimously. Trend of New Nationalism in the EU, populist simple solutions may soon lead to new victims.

Related: EU to approve anti-Russian sanctions extension on summit today

Other conflicts of Heads of State and Government cleared the brackets. They either knew that unity will not, or simply do not have a clue what to do with them. Common position on the future policy concerning migration and refugees? Postponed. Clarification of relations with neighboring Turkey? Postponed. Help for the "frontline" in the refugee crisis in Greece and Italy? Postponed. The real solution to the debt crisis in Greece? Postponed. Find answers to the rise of nationalism and centrifugal forces in the EU after Brexit? Postponed. Everything is postponed to next year. However, already in the first quarter of 2017, four summits scheduled to finally deal with the problems that are entangled in a lump in 2016.

Related: EU to decide on extending sanctions against Russia after the EU Summit

The helplessness of the European Council, has lead to the false conclusion that the EU has exhausted its potential. On the contrary, the EU should oppose a return to nationalism and populism. Small steps, difficult compromises. It does not sound bright and attractive, but there is an alternative.

Related: EU-Ukraine Summit: what benefits Ukraine gets from meeting in Brussels


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