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Josep Borrell: MEP leads calls for EU's foreign affairs chief to quit after Moscow 'humiliation'

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Estonian MEP Riho Terras, left, and the EU's foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, right.
Estonian MEP Riho Terras, left, and the EU's foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, right.   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP/AP
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_ Riho Terras, an Estonian MEP from the European People’s Party and 80 other MEPs have put their signatures to a letter calling for the EU's Josep Borrell to quit._

The former army chief is upset over Borrell's trip to Moscow last week. Speaking to Euronews, the MEP said he thinks Borrell gave a a poor justification for the incident in Parliament, "I like that he had to admit that more sanctions are necessary, but that was something that I would have seen beforehand and not after the visit." Terras goes on, "I think he should have gone there with the sanctions in his backpack, which didn’t happen. And so the Russians played him around and he didn’t reply to that."

Borrell, the EU's foreign affairs chief, was in the Russian capital days after the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

While Borrell was meeting Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, Moscow expelled three European diplomats for attending pro-Navalny rallies.

After Friday's press conference between Borrell and Lavrov, Terras drafted a highly critical letter addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, asking her to "take action if Mr Borrell does not resign by his own accord".

According to Terras, the letter has so far being signed by over 50 fellow MEPs belonging to different parties.

The text argues that Borrell "repeatedly failed to defend the European Union’s interest" and made false statements regarding EU sanctions.

Terras also castigates him for endorsing Sputnik V, Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, and for attacking the EU's "principal ally, the United States, over Cuba".

Terras also takes aim at Borrell for not ending the trip when Russia expelled three EU diplomats - from Germany, Poland and Sweden.

"Russia showed everything possible to humiliate the EU’s highest diplomat," Terras told Euronews. "I understand you want to have a dialogue. But if one is playing ice hockey, the other cannot do figure dancing. And that’s what happened in Moscow: Russia's foreign minister played Mr Borrell around and humiliated him."

The MEP believes Borrell should follow the example of Phil Hogan, the former European Commissioner for Trade who resigned in August after attending a golf dinner in Ireland that contravened coronavirus restrictions. Terras believes Hogan committed "much lesser crimes" than Borrell.

Nevertheless, Terras admits that resigning from such an important office as that of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, who is also a Vice-President of the European Commission, is going to be difficult. That is why he is demanding that his boss, President von der Leyen, approach the European Council and ask for Borrell's resignation.

"I hope our letter makes the Commission understand that a unified European policy [on Russia] is needed," Terras adds. "Everybody plays its own cards and that is not acceptable."

"One of the [first] steps for sure would be for Germany to show example and step out of [the] absolutely criminal project of the Nord Stream 2."

Borrell's defence

In an attempt to defend his performance, Borrell published on Sunday a blog statement where he talked about a "very complicated visit to Moscow" and an "aggressively-staged press conference".

"The Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU. This is regrettable and we will have to draw the consequences," Borrell said.

In the post, Borrell admits he learned about the expulsion of the three diplomats through social media.

"My meeting with Minister Lavrov and the messages sent by Russian authorities during this visit confirmed that Europe and Russia are drifting apart. It seems that Russia is progressively disconnecting itself from Europe and looking at democratic values as an existential threat," the diplomat wrote.

Reacting on Twitter, Terras called the statement "crocodile tears".

On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson of the European External Action Service said Borrell has no regrets about his Moscow trip and that he delivered "clear European positions".

"He [Borrell] is a diplomat, and diplomacy is about engaging, engaging also when it's not pleasant, engaging also with partners which are difficult, engaging in their own turf, to come there and have the courage instead of shouting behind the fence," the spokesperson said.