Russian President and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin at a polling station during the presidential election in Moscow, Sunday (18/03). (Reuters Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

EU's Juncker Follows France, Germany in Congratulating Putin


MARCH 21, 2018

Brussels. The European Union's chief executive has written to Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his reelection, saying that Russia and Europe should "reestablish a cooperative pan-European security order."

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker published the letter on his Twitter account on Tuesday (20/03), echoing the call for dialogue by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in their messages of congratulation.

"Our common objective should be to re-establish a cooperative pan-European security order," Juncker wrote. "I hope that you will use your fourth term in office to pursue this goal," he said, adding: "I will always be a partner in this endeavor."

After dominating the political landscape for the last 18 years, Putin comfortably won reelection on Sunday. US President Donald Trump has yet to congratulate Putin, although the Kremlin said that was not "an unfriendly act."

With East-West ties at post-Cold War lows, Juncker's congratulatory letter followed the latest expression of concern about Russia from EU foreign ministers on Monday over the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent on British soil.

In a statement, ministers said the European Union "takes extremely seriously the UK government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible." Russia denies any involvement.

Juncker, a former Luxembourg premier, courted criticism in June 2016 when he attended an economic forum with Putin in St. Petersburg when most EU leaders were seeking to isolate Russia diplomatically over Russia's 2014 seizure of Ukraine's Crimea.

However, Juncker has long argued that, while maintaining sanctions on Russia, the EU should engage more with Moscow to push the Kremlin to curtail its disinformation campaign against the West and seek an end to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In October 2015, Juncker spoke out in favor of Moscow, saying: "Russia must be treated decently. We can't let our relationship with Russia be dictated by Washington."