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EU leaders eye Russia sanctions after US toughens stance

EU leaders eye Russia sanctions after US toughens stance
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EU leaders met in Brussels on Thursday where they looked to decide which Russians should also be subject to sanctions.

The two-day summit will also see the signing of a political agreement between the EU and Ukraine.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in Brussels that EU member states “need to speak with a clear and united voice”.

“What that means is making sure we do everything we can to help build a strong and democratic Ukraine,” he said.

“One of the things we will do at this council is to sign a new agreement with the Ukraine, offering them a prosperous future, access to our markets and real political support!”

The Baltic States and Poland have been calling for a tougher response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a more cautious tone when speaking with reporters: “We will speak about sanctions. there will be a strengthening of the so-called level two of sanctions: visa-restrictions and freezing of assets – and we will make it very clear, that we are ready to introduce economic sanctions in the case of further escalation,” she told the media upon her arrival at the summit.

But economists pointed out that while Merkel may talk tough, it is unlikely she will pursue that path, given the strong trade ties between Germany and Russia.

“The Chancellor knows that economic sanctions, would probably, from an economic point of view be a lose-lose-situation for both,” said Carsten Brzeski, a senior economist at ING Bank.

It is exactly those diverse economic interests that different EU countries have with Russia that is making consensus so difficult.

“I have the impression that in the phase of aggression by Russia, the largest neighbour of the EU, it is actually much more difficult for member states to keep up unity,” said Steven Blockmans of the Centre for European Policy Studies.

“Because energy interests, economic interests and security interests simply differ between member states.”

EU leaders started talks just hours after the US announced it was adding the names of 20 more Russians to its own sanctions list.