European Union leaders will discuss a new strategy to manage relations with Russia and a controversy over a new Hungarian law banning LGBT references in school material at a two-day summit opening on June 24 in Brussels.
EU leaders will consider whether to seek a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of the new strategy, a meeting that would follow U.S. President Joe Biden’s summit with Putin last week.
Envoys for France and Germany put forward a last-minute proposal to hold a summit with Putin as a possible way to repair ties that the bloc said are in a “negative spiral.”
But some EU diplomats said there should be an improvement in relations before any summit with the Russian leader, and numerous EU nations — particularly in Eastern Europe – are wary of talking to the Kremlin.
The EU and Russia are on opposing sides of several issues from matters involving Ukraine and Belarus to human rights. They also accuse each other of meddling in elections, spreading disinformation, and threatening security and stability in Eastern Europe.
Leaders hope to build on a strategy paper released earlier this month by the European Commission and the EU’s diplomatic service that warned of the “negative spiral” and “a further downturn” in ties.
The EU is also expected during the summit to publish details of economic sanctions against Belarus over the diversion of a commercial flight to Minsk on May 23 to arrest a dissident journalist and his girlfriend.
The debate over Hungary’s LGBT law is likely be raised during the first day. The legislation was adopted on June 15 and is due to come into effect soon.
The proposed legal changes ban the “display and promotion of homosexuality” among under-18s. The ban applies to discussions and the dissemination of information in schools that is deemed by authorities to promote homosexuality and gender change.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on June 23 that the law “clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.” She said the EU’s executive is considering legal action because it violates the bloc’s fundamental values.
More than half the EU countries, including Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, have signed a joint declaration voicing “grave concerns” over the law and calling for the commission to act.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who may be in for a frosty reception at the summit, has defended the law, saying it protects the rights of children, guarantees the rights of parents, and does not apply to the sexual orientation rights of those over 18 years of age.
“It does not contain any discriminatory elements,” the conservative leader said in a statement on June 23.
Turkey also figures on the EU leaders’ agenda. The European Commission is pitching a proposal to provide 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion) to Ankara over the next three years as part of a bigger package of support to countries hosting refugees from Syria’s civil war.
The additional funding is seen as an incentive for Turkey to stick to efforts aimed at tackling disputes with Greece and ceasing gas exploration in the waters around Cyprus.
In a sign of the summit’s geopolitical reach, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is to sit in at the on the first day for an extended working lunch before the EU leaders tackle the range of foreign affairs issues in front of them.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP