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President Iohannis: EU principles, support for Eastern Neighborhood states - key elements in managing relations with Russia

President Klaus Iohannis pointed out at the European Council meeting that, from Romania's perspective, the key elements in managing relations with the Russian Federation are the five principles agreed by the Union, EU solidarity and cooperation with partners with similar positions, as well as continuing and intensifying support for partners in the Eastern Neighborhood, the Presidential Administration informs.

The Romanian president also emphasized the importance of pursuing common interests and clear objectives at Union level, with a unified and coordinated approach in relation to the Russian Federation, as well as of the role of strategic communication in all of the EU's efforts.

The main topics on the European Council's agenda concerned the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic recovery process, migration issues, the European Union's relations with Turkey and the Russian Federation, as well as other topical issues on the Union's external agenda. Following the discussions of the European leaders, conclusions were adopted.

With regard to relations with the Russian Federation, the heads of state and government reiterated their commitment to a unified, strategic and long-term approach based on the five guiding principles in the EU policy towards Russia. In this regard, the leaders invited the Council, the European Commission and the High Representative to continue their full implementation, with particular attention granted to the interests and values of the Union. The document expresses the expectation for a constructive political commitment from Russia, as well as the renunciation of actions hostile to the Member States of the Union or to third countries. European leaders have called on Russia to comply with the provisions of the Minsk Agreements, as a key condition for any substantial change in the EU's attitude.

The European leaders emphasized the importance of a strong and coordinated response by the EU and the Member States to any malicious, illegal and disruptive activity on the part of Russia, by taking into account all the instruments at the EU's disposal and ensuring coordination with partners. To this end, European leaders called on the European Commission and the High Representative to present options for additional restrictive measures, including economic sanctions. Through the conclusions adopted, the European leaders stressed the need to strengthen cooperation with the Eastern Neighborhood states, at the level of inter-human contacts, included.

At the same time, the European Council reiterated the EU's openness to selectively engage with Russia in areas of EU interest and called on the European Commission and the High Representative to develop concrete options, including conditionality and leverage in this regard, on issues such as climate and the environment, health, some foreign policy and security files, and multilateral issues such as the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, Syria and Libya, respectively. The European Council will also explore the formats and the conditionalities of the dialogue with Russia

With regard to migration, European leaders agreed that, although the measures taken by the EU and the Member States have led to a decrease in illegal flows in recent years, developments on certain routes remain a source of concern and require continued vigilance and urgent action. The heads of state and government encouraged mutually beneficial partnerships and continued cooperation with countries of origin and transit. Thus, the leaders highlighted the need for concrete actions to combat the root causes of migration, support refugees and displaced persons in the region, cooperate in rescue operations, strengthen migration management capacities, manage legal migration, within the limits of national competences, such as return and readmission processes.

In this regard, the European leaders invited the European Commission and the High Representative to propose concrete actions, in cooperation with the Member States, for the implementation of action plans for the priority countries of origin and transit by autumn 2021.

With regard to relations with Turkey, European leaders reiterated the EU's strategic interest in a secure and stable environment in the Eastern Mediterranean region and in the development of a mutually beneficial EU relationship with Turkey, as well as the EU's willingness to engage in a phased, proportionate and reversible strengthening of cooperation with Turkey. The heads of state and government welcomed the de-escalation of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, emphasizing the importance of this situation's sustainability, in line with the declaration adopted at the European Council of March 25, 2021. In the conclusions adopted, the leaders reiterated the need to address the current challenges of implementing the Customs Union, noting the start of technical discussions on the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union.

European leaders have called on the European Commission to urgently present formal proposals for continued financial support for Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as in other regions. The conclusions adopted by the leaders contain a number of references to the Cyprus issue, reaffirming the EU's previous commitments in this area, as well as to the concerns raised by the issues of respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights in Turkey.

The external agenda of the EU leaders' meeting was complemented by a series of specific discussions on some recent developments in this area, in particular on Belarus and the Sahel, but also on the situation in Libya and Ethiopia. The European leaders condemned recent malicious cyber activity, mentioning in this context Ireland and Poland, and called on the Council to identify appropriate responses, with reference to the EU Cyber Diplomacy Toolbox.