Fractious EU summit rejects Franco-German plan for Putin talks

Bloc to explore sanctions instead, as gathering also holds ‘emotional’ debate over Hungary’s LGBT laws

By Jennifer Rankin

A Franco-German plan to restart talks with Vladimir Putin has been rejected at a fractious EU summit that resulted in a decision to explore economic sanctions against Russia instead.

The two-day gathering in Brussels also included an “emotional” debate over LGBT rights in Hungary, as EU leaders confronted Viktor Orbán over a law that will ban gay people from being shown in educational and entertainment content for minors.

The two issues made what was meant to be a routine summit of the 27 EU leaders into a much more bruising encounter. Tensions were raised after France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel blindsided other leaders by proposing talks with Putin, following Joe Biden’s summit with the Russian president last week.

The move backfired, with Poland and the Baltic states leading the charge, arguing that talking to Putin was a concession that would not change the Kremlin’s behaviour. Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda, said it was like trying “to engage the bear to keep a pot of honey safe”.

Merkel, attending what is likely to be her last Brussels summit as a sitting head of government, said it had not been an easy discussion on Russia. “Personally I would have liked to have taken a bolder step here,” she told reporters after the meeting finished in the small hours of Friday morning. “But it’s also good as it is, and we will continue to work on this.”

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