On Monday, the European Union extended its sanctions against Russia for the next six months. The 28 member nations reached a consensus in spite of some question about how long the sanctions need to continue. Russia is a major trading partner of the EU, but since its annexation of Crimea and involvement in Ukraine’s separatist war, the EU has had punitive sanctions in place. These sanctions, along with similar measures put in place by the United States, have caused an economic slowdown in Russia. The extension will keep sanctions in place until July when they will be reviewed. A removal of the sanctions will be linked to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. With the agreements not likely to be put into effect anytime soon, the EU has used this as the justification for extending sanctions now.
A number of EU nations are becoming weary of the sanctions. Italy, which has long standing trade ties with Russia has been particularly outspoken on the issue. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has complained that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is forcing other EU nations to go along with the sanctions while Germany is engaging Russia in projects that are contrary to the terms of the sanctions. Renzi is specifically referring to a German-Russian plan to construct a natural gas pipeline between the two nations through the Baltic Sea. The project comes after a similar pipeline project that would have included Italy’s Eni energy company was cancelled last year.
As the EU hobbles toward 2016 it looks back on what has been a tumultuous and divisive year. The Paris terrorist attacks, Greece’s near exit from the EU, and the continuing refugee crisis have placed tremendous amounts of pressure on the member nations. From all indications, the coming year is not going to offer a reprieve for Europe. If anything, it is going to be worse.