EU changes rules to extend Russian sanctions without unanimity among its 28 members | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

EU changes rules to extend Russian sanctions without unanimity among its 28 members

Although officials didn’t spell it out explicitly, the formulation aims to reverse the burden of proof for extending the sanctions, which include bans on the sales of arms or sophisticated equipment for the oil and gas industry, along with measures that effectively stop Russia and its largest banks from using western capital markets.

Under E.U. law, the measures would have had to be renewed by a unanimous vote at the end of July. But a number of countries have voiced concern, anxious at the damage to their trade with Russia, due to their separate national agendas: Cyprus is a key financial hub for the Russian economy; Hungary’s conservative Premier Viktor Orban is keep to ensure continued flows of Russian gas (and to seal a deal for Russian nuclear power which the E.U. wants to ban); Italy is also concerned about its gas supplies, and about the fate of its energy companies’ investments there, and its luxury companies and high-end tourism industry are suffering from the ruble’s collapse.

Most of all, the Greek government has been dropping regular hints that it would veto an extension of the sanctions unless the Eurozone relaxes the terms of the country’s bailout. That has not gone down well with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has had to face down a powerful export lobby at home to uphold measures that she sees as necessary to keeping the long-term peace in Europe.

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