Leaders from Czech, Hungary, and Slovenia are complaining of negative economic impacts inflicted by wider economic sanctions on Russia, singling out “hypocrisy” in the bloc’s west during the Ukrainian crisis.
Western European countries are no longer conducting fair deals with Russia even as they threaten of more sanctions according to Slovak Prime Minister Roberto Fico at a conference in the nation’s capital, Bratislava. His Hungarian and Czech counterparts, Victor Orban and Bohuslav Sobotka, said they were not ready to lose out on business opportunities. Striking a different tone, Polish Premier Donald Tusk called on the EU to show unity and assume its costs.
Fico told Globsec security conference that they were talking about solidarity in his country whereas France was selling warships to Russia, adding that they were discussing on how to assist Ukraine with its energy security.
Eastern EU members, who escaped Moscow’s sphere of influence 25 years ago are demanding their richer western counterparts to share the cost of tighter sanctions. Since they are dependent on Russia for energy, they are also seeking guarantee for their supplies. Their demands made worse the already existing differences, with Germany, Spain, and Italy confronting NATO calls to increase their defense spending.
France this week said it will deliver Mistral chopper carrier warships to Russia as planned, defying calls from its European and U.S. allies to revoke the deal.
Tusk said that if they can drop the hypocrisy, they would build a common position on energy and defense policy and also urged the greater presence of North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in the region.
Russia has been accused by the EU, the U.S. and Ukraine of fomenting the unrest in Ukraine easternmost regions, but the Moscow government denied. Several people have been killed and more than 100 kidnapped since the separatist unrest emerged after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March. Should Ukraine’s May 25 elections becomes disrupted, U.S. and EU leaders have threatened to increase sanctions.
Sanctions in industries will come in as well, according to EU foreign ministers in Brussels, who also warned of broad economic penalties if Russia disrupts the Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for May 25.
Tusk said that the EU should assume the cost of proposed energy union to reduce its dependence on Russia. He last month proposed a single body charged with purchasing gas to break Russia’s “stranglehold” over the energy market in the region.
Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, called for the departure of soviet troops saying the conflict with Russia was torpedoing regional plans to boost trade ties that collapsed after the fall of Iron Curtain.
The “eastern opening” formed the cornerstone of Orban’s foreign policy before the Ukrainian crisis. The Czech Republic and Slovakia depended on the Russian market to manage Western Europe demand suffering due to the euro crisis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the EU leaders of lacking the power and will to face down his efforts in rebuilding influence in the buffer area between Russia and NATO members.
If the costs are shared in a fair way, the leaders from the Eastern Europe said they will be ready to back the united EU approach.
Calling for solidarity across Europe, Slovakia’s Fico said they were ready to spend something, adding that solidarity can only be shown by the member states bordering Ukraine.