Borrell defends controversial Russia trip, threatens sanctions
Calls for resignation of the head of European diplomacy in the European Parliament
MEPs criticized EU leaders for the visit to Moscow of the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, which they regarded as catastrophic.
Several governments have previously called on Borrell, the former Spanish foreign minister, to cancel a trip to the Russian capital, believing that such a visit is untimely amid the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the crackdown on street protests by the Russian authorities..
Outraged European lawmakers have demanded that Borrell resign in connection with the visit, which many saw as a propaganda victory for the Kremlin. Critics have accused him of failing to counter Russia’s aggressive tactics.
Eighty-one MEPs sign a letter prepared by Estonian lawmaker Riho Terras urging Borrell to leave.
“Borrell’s miscalculation, which was expressed in the decision to visit Moscow and his inability to defend the interests and values of the European Union during this visit, caused serious damage to the EU’s reputation,” the letter says..
“We believe the European Commission President should take action if Borrell does not step down,” the lawmakers added..
Criticism was also heard in the European Parliament’s conference room on Tuesday, although Borrell tightened his language on the Kremlin when addressing lawmakers.
He said that next week he will offer EU foreign ministers a list of Russians against whom sanctions should be imposed in connection with the imprisonment of Navalny..
“I will come up with specific proposals,” he said, noting that he “had no illusions before the visit”.
According to Borrell, “the Russian government is following an alarming authoritarian path,” and this country “seeks to divide us.”.
However, Borrell’s critics were not reassured..
“We have never looked so weak and confused about how to deal with Russia,” said Belgian lawmaker Hilde Woutmans..
Dutch MP Sophie in ‘t Veld says Borrell has a “trust issue”.
During Borrell’s visit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the EU an “unreliable partner” at a joint press conference in Moscow. At the same time, the head of European diplomacy was silent and smiled a little.
European countries were outraged when it turned out that Borrell, during a meeting with Lavrov, only learned through Twitter that the Kremlin had expelled three European diplomats, accusing them of participating in demonstrations in support of Navalny.
According to some former and current European diplomats, Borrell should have left the meeting after learning of the expulsions..
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen defended Borrell. Spokesman for the European Commission Peter Stano said that Borrell “took an active position in negotiations with Lavrov”.