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Russia-EU: Are we finally witnessing a thaw in Russia-EU relations? - by Bryan MacDonald

The process seemed to begin on the morning of May 25 when Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Ukraine's Nadiya Savchenko, whose detention and conviction had caused Western outrage. Immediately, EU officials were falling over themselves to celebrate the move.

By the weekend, the German news weekly Der Spiegel, which is often regarded as the house journal of Angela Merkel's CDU party, was reporting that Berlin was considering the relaxation of sanctions against Russia.

Of course, the motives here might not be totally benevolent. After all, some EU leaders – most notably in France, Italy and Greece – have expressed dissatisfaction with the policy. As a result, Merkel may feel that retaining unity on the issue, as things stand, is impossible and that compromise is needed to preserve EU consensus.

Whatever the reasons, the fact that Der Spiegel carried the story almost certainly means that it reflects German government thinking. And talk of sanctions rollback is music to Moscow's ears right now.

Then, just when the Kremlin was digesting the notion of the embargo easing, up popped Jean-Claude Juncker with even better news. On May 30, the EU Commission president revealed that he will attend next month's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, widely known as the "Russian Davos." His spokeswoman said that "he will use this opportunity to convey to the Russian leadership as well as to a wider audience the EU's perspective regarding the current state of EU-Russia relations."

Leonard Cohen once wrote that "there's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Yet, it has taken a long time for Brussels and Moscow to uncover a luminous crevice. Russians will now hope that this diplomatic winter is finally over. So will many of the European businesses that have suffered under Moscow's counter-sanctions.

Note EU-Digest: Hopefully this thaw in the frozen relationship between the EU and Russia will also signal the beginning of a more independent foreign policy for the EU. A foreign policy which is more focused on the interests of the EU, rather than tagging along with the US on their foreign military adventures, which so  far have not been very successful or beneficial to the EU, to say the least.

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