According to Vice-President of the European Commission Věra Jourová, Western European states should commit themselves to a tougher joint response to the Vrbětice case as only a few Eastern European countries expelled Russian diplomats so far. Jourová is one of the eight people on whom Moscow imposed an entry ban last Friday.
She said the step to be a reaction to her critical attitude towards Russia in diplomacy with the Czech Republic, but also to a long-term campaign against Russian misinformation. The European Union summoned the Russian ambassador today due to Friday’s sanctions.
“I think I was very outspoken when I supported the Czech government in its diplomatic steps towards Russia,” Jourová told Czech journalists in Brussels on Monday. After finding out about the alleged role of Russian agents in the explosion of the Vrbětice ammunition depot in 2014, the Czech Republic expelled 18 employees of the Russian embassy and ordered the departure of dozens of other people so that the representation at the embassies of both countries would be balanced.
Jourová later criticized President Miloš Zeman, who, unlike the Czech government, questioned the conclusions of the Czech security services, thus helping Russian propaganda, according to the European Commission vice-president. Zeman indicated that a full investigation should be conducted before conclusions are drawn into Russia’s role in the explosion and there was a rush to make “hysterical” claims about Russia.
Jourová has been a vocal critic of Russia for a long time.
“I think that most of the (Russian) decision was based on the agenda I was working on, especially that I was fighting against the misinformation coming from the Russian side,” she stated.
Moscow, along with seven other representatives of EU institutions and other institutions, banned her from traveling to Russia on Friday, to which Brussels responded by summoning the Russian ambassador.
“I did not plan to go to Russia in the foreseeable future, so in terms of this restriction, there is zero effect,” said Jourová.
According to her, the EU should strive for constructive relations with Russia, but they also need the will from the other side. In the current situation, it is time to start thinking about targeted economic sanctions. The EU countries should also find common ground and more directly support Czechia in the current dispute.
“I would like the other states, especially the Western European ones, to act. But it is not happening yet. I still think that the summit on May 25 could bring a turnaround, where Prime Minister Babiš will have the opportunity to shed light on the matter and ask for coordinated action again,” said Jourová.
Title image: European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova speaks during a plenary debate on attempts to silence free media in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (Johanna Geron, Pool Photo via AP)