BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU leaders on Thursday will discuss tense relations with Russia and punishing sanctions imposed over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine at a summit led for the first time by Poland’s Kremlin-wary former premier Donald Tusk.
Leaders will also back a huge 315-billion-euro (US$380-billion) invest-ment plan unveiled last month by new European Commission Presi-dent Jean-Claude Juncker – although hard cash is expected to be lacking to help kick-start Europe’s economy.
“The Russian economic situation will be in everyone’s minds,” a Euro-pean diplomat said, after a month that has seen Russia spend heavily to stop the collapse of the ruble triggered by falling oil prices and sanctions imposed by Brussels and Washington.
Tusk – who on December 1 took up his duties as president of the European Council grouping the 28 EU member states – has set aside talks on a “strategy” for Moscow, se-veral European sources said.
No new sanctions will be decided at the summit in Brussels as the EU “is not in a hardening mindset”, one diplomat said, while another added: “We don’t want to provoke Putin too much.”
“We must pursue the political work,” a French source said.
On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a conference call with presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, agreeing that peace talks to end months of bloody rebellion in the east of the ex-Soviet republic should resume “as soon as possible”.