The European Union will stand by Britain after London said it was likely that Moscow was behind a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent in England, a senior EU official said on Tuesday.
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium March 7, 2018.
However, the EU, which has struggled to maintain a common front in imposing sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, has made no explicit commitment to join specific actions taken by Britain as the country prepares to quit the bloc next year.
“We are very much concerned with the situation, also the findings the UK has so far,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis told reporters when asked if the EU might back action against Russia over the case.
“Of course the UK can count on EU solidarity in this regard,” he added.
Dombrovskis, a former prime minister of ex-Soviet Latvia, did not elaborate. As the commissioner in charge of the euro, he was arriving for a meeting of EU finance ministers.
On Monday, the deputy head of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, told the European Parliament that the EU would show solidarity with Britain, which is leaving the Union next year but has pledged to continue close security and diplomatic ties.
Following Monday’s accusation by Prime Minister Theresa May that Moscow was“highly likely” to have been behind the attempt to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, Timmermans tweeted:“I followed closely the declaration made by PM May today on the attack with nerve gas in the UK.
“I want to express my strong feelings of solidarity with the British people and the British government. We stand with you.”
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, a fierce critic of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, spoke out strongly in favour of backing Britain, which as an EU member is part of an existing sanctions regime penalising Russia for its actions in Ukraine in recent years.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the British people,” Guy Verhofstadt tweeted.“It must be made clear that an attack against one EU and NATO country is an attack on all of us.”
The 28 EU member states been united on sanctions on Moscow since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 but six-monthly rollovers, which require unanimity, have been subject to grumbling from some countries seeking warmer relations with Russia.
One set of sanctions was renewed on Monday.