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Macron says EU must start direct talks with Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to the European Parliament, marking the start of the French EU presidency, on January 19, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The European Union must conduct its own dialogue with Russia rather than supporting diplomatic efforts led by the United States and NATO, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

“The security of our continent demands a strategic rearmament of Europe as a power of peace and balance, particularly when it comes to dialogue with Russia,” Macron said on Wednesday during the presentation of the program of France’s six-month presidency of the EU at the European Parliament’s session in Strasbourg.

“I think that it is good for there to be coordination between Europe and the US but it is vital that Europe has its own dialogue with Russia,” French president said.

Macron said that despite the joint EU-US diplomacy, Europeans should spend the coming weeks developing a proposal to create “a new order of security and stability,” while consulting with NATO.

“We must build it between Europeans, then share it with our allies within the framework of NATO. And then offer it for negotiation to Russia,” Macron said, addressing EU’s vulnerabilities with regard to the Kremlin, including energy supply.

The French president hoped to revitalize four-way talks between the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine, known as the Normandy format, to find a solution to the escalating crisis.

Moscow has ignored calls from Paris and Berlin to relaunch the Normandy peace talks, and in November, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia prefers to deal primarily with the US and said “bringing in too broad a circle of countries into these processes seems counterproductive to us.”

“Europe has seen migration movements being manipulated, cyber-attacks and hikes in gas prices,” Macron said, adding, “We need to create conditions for sovereignty and it means greater independence from Russia” in oil and gas imports.

“We will not become independent tomorrow but it does not mean we should sever ties with Russia; on the contrary, they bring many benefits to us,” he said.

Macron told members of European parliament that he would not use the EU presidency as a “springboard” for his reelection as French president in three months’ time. However, he challenged those who equated his belief in stronger powers at an EU level with a lack of patriotism.

Macron’s comments came as US President Joe Biden on Wednesday predicted Russia would “move in” on Ukraine, and warned an invasion would be a “disaster” for Vladimir Putin, as he urged the west to remain united in holding Moscow “accountable” for any aggression.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukraine’s president on Wednesday in Kiev, seeking to reassure him of unified support from the West while warning of a possible Russian invasion.

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