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MOSCOW, December 11. /TASS/. The United States continues pressurizing the European Union to extend sanctions on Russia, which is likely to happen. However, discontent is growing in Europe over renewed sanctions on Russia. While experts don’t believe that the sanctions will be cancelled in the next six months, they say it is important that on Italy’s initiative EU ambassadors decided against automatically extending the sanctions.
The US is not concealing its pressure. US Acting Treasury Undersecretary Adam Szubin said on Thursday the United States expected the EU to vote on extending its sanctions against Russia.
According to Szubin, the US worked closely with the European Union to keep economic pressure on Russia until the Minsk accords on the ceasefire in east Ukraine were implemented in full. The US continues to firmly adhere to this position, he added.
Meanwhile, the EU member states are far from holding a unified position. This was evidenced by a decision of the EU ambassadors representing all the EU member states (COREPER) against automatically extending the sanctions on Russia, which expire on January 31, 2016. Italy’s representatives demanded "a political discussion" of the issue and a decision was postponed until an EU Council meeting scheduled for December 17-18.
Director of the Eurasian Communication Center Alexey Pilko was quoted by the Free Press web portal as saying that the idea of cancelling the sanctions against Russia was evoking increasingly larger interest in Europe as the EU was also suffering from them.
The expert noted that a former French transport minister had recently submitted a resolution to France’s parliament on cancelling the restrictive measures.
"I believe that the idea of cancelling the anti-Russian sanctions will be increasingly capturing the minds of European politicians," he said.
According to Pilko, the problem is that politically Europe strongly depends on the US and precisely the Americans are the authors of the idea of extending the sanctions.
The decision by the EU ambassadors is a remarkable event and it testifies to the desire of the political leadership and the EU, as well as many EU member countries to withdraw from the state of the drawn-out confrontation, in particular, the sanctions war, Head of the Section of European Political Studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Nadezhda Arbatova told TASS.
"As for Italy, it is traditionally bound by strong ties with Russia. Moreover, these ties are more than just economic relations. Italy is one of Russia’s most important partners in the EU, with which cooperation develops virtually in all directions. In particular, Italy supported the introduction of a visa-free regime between Russia and the EU and, compared with many NATO members, views more favorably many of Moscow’s initiatives in the sphere of European security," the expert said.
"Italy is not the only country that has special relations with Russia. The same can be said about Germany and France but Italy has always acted more boldly than other countries in the Russian direction," she added.
Naturally, there are forces in the EU standing against the easing of the sanctions regime in relations with Russia, the expert said.
"First of all, these are the countries of the so-called Baltic nucleus led by Poland. Three countries of the Visegrad Group - the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - have distanced themselves from Poland, holding a more cautious position on the Ukraine issue and showing skepticism over anti-Russian sanctions," she said.
"Characterized not so much by Russophilia as by Euroskepticism, these countries have a more restrained view on the political processes in Ukraine compared with Washington and Brussels as they primarily proceed from the interests of their own security and stability in Europe as a whole. And, there are, of course, the countries besides Italy and France traditionally drawing towards Russia for various reasons - Greece and Cyprus," the expert said.
"The very fact that Italy formulated this issue shows that there is no unity in Europe," Senior Researcher of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies Sergei Mikhailov told TASS.
"This is because they would have formalized everything automatically, if they were united. Most likely, the Americans would push through the extension of the EU sanctions. But Italy’s demarche is a bid for discussing the sanctions cancellation in another six months at a more serious level," the expert said.
Moscow State University Associate Professor Alexey Fenenko believes that a special role is designed for Italy in Russia-EU relations.
"The European Union and Russia are looking for a mediator at the talks," the expert told TASS.
"For this purpose, there is the need for a country, which Russia will trust. Meanwhile, we have had fairly good relations with Italy. So, I don’t rule out that the European Union is deliberately playing this game, offering Italy as a future mediator for contacts, consultations. Look, despite this demarche, no one has spoken against Italy and has not said any harsh word against it. Perhaps, this tells you much," the expert said.
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