Relations with Russia will be strained for at least 10 years, warns Czech foreign minister

Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, July 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
By M B
3 Min Read

It is time for Czechia to reconsider its foreign policy towards Russia with relations expected to be strained for at least 10 years, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský said at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.

He is not alone in his position, but the idea that EU member states would abolish the right of veto in a unified foreign policy seems unrealistic to him.

“Relations with the Russian Federation will be relatively tense for at least the next decade,” the head of Czech diplomacy said following the meeting. “Europe must be able to reflect this. It must be able to defend itself. The still-accepted starting points assume completely different relations with Russia,” he added.

Lipavský already announced before the start of the negotiations that he intends to propose a complete redefinition of relations with Russia to his European counterparts.

It was clear from his words that he wishes for the European Union to adopt a unified position on this issue and that individual countries do not deviate from it.

“It is time to rethink our policy towards Russia. We have to build new measures against it to stop the war and prepare ourselves for new atrocities that Russia is definitely planning,” said Lipavský.

He would like it to be the main topic of the August “Gymnich”, i.e., the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers, which will take place in Prague due to the Czech presidency.

“I talked about the fact that we should think about some agreements between the EU and the Russian Federation, because the reason for negotiating them, for example, regarding visas, has passed. Europe should reflect on that,” the minister added.

Lipavský’s Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis expressed himself very similarly.

“We need to discuss how to deal with the aggressors. If a country attacks another neighboring democratic country, what is our approach? How do we deal with it? The world’s rules are currently being tested, they are being rewritten, and we must be the ones who write them,” Landsbergis said.

The end of unanimity?

Lipavský also commented on the European Parliament’s proposal to replace unanimity with qualified majority voting, at least in foreign policy.

“I’m a big realist, I keep my feet on the ground. Several member states do not want to join this discussion today. They are not just the usual suspects that the media talk about,” he said, adding that there should be a debate on the issue, even though Lipavský himself does not intend to waste his efforts in this direction.

“I try to focus on issues that have a more realistic chance of moving somewhere, typically Ukraine and the enlargement process in the Balkans,” he added.

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