Janša sees potential for Normandy Format talks with Russia

Brussels – Prime Minister Janez Janša hinted at possible new talks with Russia within the Normandy Format, which also brings together Ukraine, Germany and France, as he was asked which sanctions against Russia the EU leaders would discuss at today’s summit in Brussels.

The EU leaders are expected to urge diplomatic efforts, particularly within the Normandy Format, to ensure the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.

Janša declined to speak about specific sanctions but said that it was good for the EU to be prepared in order to avoid surprises such as the Crimea.

He highlighted the concern about Russia piling up military forces along the border with Ukraine, saying it went beyond regular military exercises.

“There is no doubt Russia is abusing its military power to exert pressure. The question is whether this is only about pressure,” he said as he arrived at the summit.

There are perhaps some open channels for serious talks within the Normandy Format in the coming days and we will give diplomats a chance to work if that is possible, he added.

Janša said that great support for Ukraine had also been expressed at yesterday’s Eastern Partnership summit.

The meeting upheld the position that only EU and NATO members and the countries that want to join these organisations can decide on membership, and that no-one else can have the right to veto or to influence sovereignty or self-determination of any sovereign state, Janša said.

He also expressed concern about the developments in Belarus, both the abuse of migrants for hybrid attacks on the EU and the drastic sentences for some opposition leaders.

Turning back to the Eastern Partnership, he said calming tones between Armenia and Azerbaijan could be heard for the first time, which he hailed as a major positive surprise.

Janša expects an interesting debate on high energy prices from today’s summit, although no decisions that could considerably change the situation in the market.

However, he expects more determination towards measures to cushion the consequences the price hikes have for consumers.

As part of the debate on the energy situation in Europe, the EU’s strategic autonomy and Russia, he expects the project Nord Stream to be discussed.

Key challenges of the euro are also expected to be on the agenda, he said, adding he expected eurozone enlargement to be touched on.

He would like the EU leaders to agree on a concerted approach to coronavirus-related travel limits. “That’s what we need and that’s why we have the EU, to harmonise the response in such situations. I think we are close to agreement.”