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EU top diplomat told to resign after Moscow visit ‘severely damages’ bloc credibility

EU division 'is what Putin wants to see' says MEP

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The European Union’s Foreign Affairs chief has come under pressure following the diplomatic trip which came days after the Kremlin jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. MEPs have shared their disappointment and anger over Mr Borrell’s “ill-advised” visit to Moscow with some going as far as to label the move “a complete disaster”. Despite accusations that the top diplomat had given Vladimir Putin’s rogue state the upper hand in its row with the bloc, the Spanish politician insisted his mission was a success but this has not quelled calls for his resignation.

Renew Europe’s Sophie in ‘t Veld told Euronews: “If he didn’t have a mandate, he shouldn’t have gone. He’s not a messenger boy, he’s the High Representative, he has a duty to secure a position of the European Union in the Council. If he’s unable to secure that position, he shouldn’t go.

“If we’re talking about a strong, geopolitical, sovereign European Union, then we need somebody who can represent the European Union with political clout. Can you imagine something like this happening to the US secretary of state and nobody responding?”, added the Dutch MEP.

Sandra Kalniete MEP also added to calls for Mr Borell to be sacked, describing the visit as a plot by Mr Putin.

She said: “There was a certain level of misjudgment because he fell into a trap that was set by the Kremlin.

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“In the preparation, he has received from the European Parliament quite a lot of messages with strong recommendations not to go.”

Others have resisted calls for the foreign affairs chief’s resignation, Social Group MEP Ignacio Sánchez Amor said the row was only aiding the “Russian agenda.”

He said “This criticism within the European Union is only helping the Russian agenda. This is exactly the thing that Putin wants to see, a not united European Union in his answer to the poisoning,” he told Euronews.

“We’re asking European diplomacy to be proactive, not only reactive. And now we’re being more proactive,” he said. “We’re learning the language of power, this is not comfortable on some occasions, and this has been the case.”

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In total, more than 70 MEPs signed a letter calling for Mr Borrell’s head over the “humiliating trip”.

But the Spaniard insisted it was the right move to open diplomatic channels with Moscow.

He told MEPs: “I had no illusion before the visit, I am even more worried after.

“One thing became clear, there is no intention on the Russian side to engage in a constructive discussion if we address human rights and political freedom.”

EU27 foreign ministers are set to meet on February 22 to discuss possible new measures against Russia.

Mr Borrell is expected to debrief them on proposals drawn up by his team to tackle the rogue state.

“It will be for the member states to decide the next step, but yes this could include sanctions and I will put forward concrete proposals,” he told the EU Parliament.

During Mr Borrell’s visit to Moscow, the Kremlin expelled three European diplomats that it claimed had attended a pro-Navalny demonstration.

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