Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto will represent Finland at the EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday 22 February in Brussels. The ministers will exchange views on Russia, which is by far the hottest topic on the agenda, the Strategic Compass for EU security and defence policy, and Hong Kong.
According to the Finnish government, the February Foreign Affairs Council will have a strategic discussion on the latest developments concerning EU-Russia relations. The ministers will discuss Russia’s current human rights situation in the light of the poisoning and detention of the opposition politician Alexei Navalny and the arrests of demonstrators protesting his detention.
Minister Haavisto will give an account of his meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Saint Petersburg on Monday 15 February.
The European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell renewed the threat of sanctions on Russia on Sunday, a day after two court rulings against Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent opponent.
Navalny was defeated in two cases in a Moscow court on Saturday. First, an appeals court upheld his prison camp sentence for parole violations. Then, later in the day, Navalny was fined a large sum for allegedly insulting a World War II veteran. Both trials were decried as politically motivated.
Borrell will discuss measures at the meeting of EU ministers for foreign affairs on Monday, he said.
He noted that Russian courts are continuing to ignore a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that Navalny ought to be released.
Support for sanctions
Support for EU measures against the Kremlin appears to be growing, and Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said he expected the EU to adopt new sanctions against Russia. Schallenberg said a step likely could be taken at Monday's meeting of EU foreign ministers, in comments to Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
"We will discuss at the Foreign Affairs Council appropriate reactions to the case of Navalny," Schallenberg said.
This would likely include targeted measures against individuals and organizations under the bloc's newly created sanctions instrument to punish human rights violators. The new measures could, for example, target individuals in the Russian judicial system involved in the case.
The bloc already applied sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine conflict, as well as after Navalny's poisoning.
The foreign ministers will review also the latest developments regarding Hong Kong. In July 2020, the Council adopted conclusions expressing concern over the impacts of the national security legislation imposed by China last year on the situation and civil rights in Hong Kong.
In Finland’s view, it is important that the EU continue to closely monitor the situation in Hong Kong and, if necessary, react to the changes in a timely manner.
During his visit to Brussels, Foreign Minister Haavisto will also attend a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC).