Even as both the EU and Russia renewed sanctions against each other, the French prime minister argued the measures are not permanent and could be removed swiftly, in a possible signal to Washington.
“We know that sanctions are not a permanent regime, but a state that can be canceled at any time,” PM Eduard Philippe said on Monday after meeting his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Le Havre.
The meeting was taking place shortly after Moscow extended its counter-embargo against the EU by another six months, in response to last week’s decision by the EU to keep its anti-Russia sanctions in place.
Claims that dialogue between France and Russia is insufficient “do not correspond to reality,” Philippe said, adding that relations between the two countries go beyond just their governments.
“Our countries sometimes share a common position, sometimes positions are somewhat different, and there are also issues where we have major differences,” the French PM said.
One of these major differences is presumably the turmoil in Ukraine, which has been cited by the EU to extend the sanctions imposed in 2014, over Crimea’s reunification with Russia and unsubstantiated allegations of Russian military involvement in Ukraine’s civil war.
In imposing the sanctions, the EU followed Washington’s lead, even though the US had minuscule trade relations with Russia and stood to lose very little from Moscow’s retaliatory measures. European economies, by contrast, have struggled to cope with the loss of access to Russian markets. Overall economic hardship has fueled more than six months of Yellow Vest protests in France.
Russia’s economy lost about $50 billion as a consequence of the sanctions, but the EU has lost $240 billion, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week, during his annual Direct Line Q&A.
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