Harsh economic measures imposed by the EU on Russia hurts business on both sides of the divide, the president of one of the bloc’s largest industry bodies has bemoaned, saying politicians should focus on common ground instead.
Writing in Austria’s daily Kurier newspaper on Monday, Christoph Leitl, the President of the European Chamber of Commerce (Eurochambres) said that, although there were fundamental differences of opinion, a reset was needed in relations with Moscow.
“Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and is committed to fundamental European values, human rights, freedom, and democracy,” he stated. “This commitment does not always match reality. But the EU has also made mistakes in dealing with Russia,” the industry chief added.
“I am thinking of the sanctions that have inflicted enormous damage on both sides,” he said. At present, Leitl complained, “the trenches have become deeper, and a bridge is nowhere in sight. Bridge-builders don’t have it easy.”
Eurochambres represents more than 20 million companies across 45 EU member states, and more than 93 percent of its members are small and medium enterprises. It also maintains close links with the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is charged with building favorable conditions for businesses in the country.
At the beginning of March, the EU announced a new package of sanctions aimed at four Russian officials over their alleged role in “human rights violations.” The move was in response to the jailing of opposition activist Alexey Navalny, and the policing of subsequent protests in his support, at which hundreds of activists were arrested and a number of injuries were reported.
Russia has since pledged its own response to the sanctions, with Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov insisting the measures were illegitimate because “there is nothing to show in order to substantiate their claims about Navalny’s poisoning, when all those who treated him are carefully hiding facts that would help us to understand what happened to him.”
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