EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell arrived in Moscow to threaten Russia with sanctions, but he then left with a statement that the Sputnik V vaccine would soon be used in the EU.
Josep Borrell held a meeting on February 5 with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
On the eve of the visit, Western media reported that Borrell was going to discuss issues related to Alexei Navalny. MEPs and many Eastern Europeans were expecting Borrell to be tough and decisive with Russia, the BBC reported shortly before Borell flew to Moscow. The largest faction in the European Parliament, the European People's Party (EPP), called on Borrell not to return empty-handed - they wanted him to put pressure on Moscow.
"We expect Mr Borrell to live up to the expectations that citizens have of him and make the EU deliver on its ambition to defend rights and values worldwide. He must not come back from Moscow empty-handed. If he does, the EU must step up its sanctions. Without a significant European reaction to Putin's clamp down on the opposition, the EU's foreign policy will only work in favour of the Kremlin", Sandra Kalniete MEP, Vice-Chairwoman of the EPP Group said.
Before the trip, Borrell himself said that he was going to visit Navalny at the pre-trial detention center. However, he apparently changed his mind, since the Simonovsky Court of Moscow did not receive a request from him, the press secretary of the court said.
At the final press conference held after the meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, Borrell once again said that none of EU member states had put forward proposals for sanctions against Russia for Navalny.
Lavrov suggested the Europeans should pay attention to their pressing problems.
"We build our life assuming that the European Union is an unreliable partner, at least at this stage. I hope that the forthcoming strategic review will nevertheless draw attention to fundamental interests of the European Union in its immediate neighborhood," Lavrov said at the press conferences.
However, the far-fetched agenda regarding Navalny was obvious, because there is still no evidence to prove that he was actually "poisoned" or treated cruelly and illegally.
EU's vital interests are clear. First and foremost, it is the stalled vaccination against coronavirus. It is only the Russian Sputnik V vaccine that can save the Europeans from new lockdowns and an economic decline. On the eve of Borrell's visit to Moscow, The Lancet published an article praising the Russian vaccine. As a matter of fact, Borrell wen to Moscow to agree on the supply of the Russian vaccine and its production in the EU.
During the visit, the head of the European diplomacy said that the Sputnik V vaccine was "good news for all mankind."
"Now I hope that the European Medical Agency (EMA) can confirm the efficacy of this vaccine so that it could be used in the European Union as well," Borrell said. "This will be good news because we are facing vaccine shortage," he added.
Then he switched to generalizations.
"The relations between the EU and Russia are marked by fundamental differences and lack of trust. But we can and should work together, Russia is an important player, and the relationship between the EU and Russia is very important," the diplomat said.
Josep Borrell then called for the release of Alexei Navalny. He did not demand it.
That was another message from the EU saying that there would be no sanctions. The EU needs not only the vaccine, but also the Nord Stream 2 gas system. "Nord Stream 2 is a private project, the EU cannot prevent its construction if Germany allowed it," said Peter Stano, a European Commission spokesperson said.
"If companies complete the construction of the pipeline, they should know that they will need to act in accordance with the legislation of the European Union. This is the maximum that we can do at the level of the European Union," Stano was quoted by The Kommersant.
In a nutshell, neither Emmanuel Macron's calls to freeze the project, nor the corresponding position of the European Parliament, the Baltic countries and Poland have had any effect on the EU government. Of course, it was Angela Merkel's position that played a decisive role at this point.
Josep Borrell did not leave Russia empty-handed: negotiations on the production of Sputnik V in the EU are already underway.
The key element that the EMA pays attention to before approving a marketing authorization for vaccines is the ability to produce doses in the EU.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on February 3, that negotiations were underway with Moscow to analyse production facilities for the Russian drug. A day later, the head of the German province of Saxony-Anhalt confirmed that Russian developers from RDIF had contacted IDT Biologika to discuss the joint production of Sputnik V in eastern Germany.
"If IDT Biologika wants to produce the Russian vaccine and it is approved in the EU, we, as the government of the state, will certainly do our best to help the company," spokesman for the Prime Minister of Saxony-Anhalt Reiner Haseloff told reporters.
IDT Biologika tried to create its own vaccine against COVID-19, having received 114 million euros from the German government for the first phase of clinical trials. However, MVA-SARS-2-S vaccine, developed by the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), failed to elicit a sufficient immune response in research subjects.
Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus made a prank call to the NED administration on behalf of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former presidential candidate at the Belarus election