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MOSCOW, January 6. /TASS/. French President Francois Hollande by his statement about the possible lifting of Western sanctions on Russia has claimed leadership among the countries seeing detente in relations with Russia, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Tuesday. “His words may mean the revision by at least some of the EU states of their stance on the current Ukrainian crisis and the country’s prospects,” said Alexey Pushkov, head of the international affairs committee at the State Duma lower house of parliament.
The lawmaker admitted that today it is too early to speak of changes in the European Union’s policy course, and it is not accidental that Brussels has made a statement that Hollande expressed his own stance as the French president and not an official stance of the EU. “I think the European Union has not decided yet on the sanctions policy in 2015,” Pushkov said.
“The French leader’s statement has shown that the countries that hold to moderate positions (towards Russia) have gradually started to take the lead,” he said. The Duma committee head said that in 2014 the politicians with a hard line on Russia were in the lead, and even German Chancellor Angela Merkel “changed her relatively moderate position for a tough one.” “Possibly, 2015 will become a period in which a relatively moderate position will play a more important role in the European Union policy,” he said.
Hollande in this case has claimed the leadership in the moderate states’ bloc, which from the very beginning were sceptical about the policy of sanctions and certainly today oppose their further tightening,” Pushkov said. The lawmaker named among these countries Austria, Slovakia, Hungary. In recent years, he said, Greece and Italy, as well as Cyprus have joined them. “Hollande in this trio - Germany, Britain, France - has become the first of the top leaders to call for the lifting of the sanctions,” he said.
Pushkov added that the emphasis should be placed correctly. “If Merkel says: ‘If there is no change in the Russian position, the sanctions will have to be tightened; Hollande says: ‘Progress in the Ukrainian crisis will be made, I believe, so it is necessary to cancel the sanctions,’ that, the emphasis is placed in a different way,” the politician said.
“Hollande thus emphasises his new role as one of the European leaders who support the transition to a detente in relations between the EU and Russia,” Pushkov said.
According to the MP, now, after his arrival in Moscow from Astana, after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hollande “is taking the lead as the initiator of a new dialogue between the EU and Moscow.” “Thus he asserts himself as a relatively independent figure on the European political scene, as well as gives a response to his critics who accuse him of following Angela Merkel,” Pushkov said. “And third, he certainly is increasing the role of France in European affairs.”
Summing up all the above, Pushkov said, however, that he did not consider Hollande’s statement as a radical one, since the French president conditions the sanctions’ lifting by the Ukrainian crisis settlement progress.
“This is a change of emphasis, but it stands for much more than just rhetoric,” he said. “This change of emphasis means that at least part of Europe has revised its stance on the crisis it is faced with, reconsidering Ukraine’s prospects and what type of relationship should prevail between the EU and Russia,” said the lawmaker.