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The same is true in other parts of the bloc. As the political mess unfolds across the Channel, European voters want to be given reasons to keep believing in the EU. Log in to access content and manage your profile. If you do not have a login you can register here. No shortage of suspects in drama over how EU should be governed. Charles Michel will be the second European Council president from his small country.

Tweets do the talking as nominee for Commission president visits EU capital. The U. Court backs decision to make TV channel only available for paying customers. The country is under fire for a slate of judicial reforms by ruling Law and Justice party. The next prime minister might be a centrist. His party is anything but. Surprise candidate for Commission chief plays to a friendly crowd first. How Macron, Merkel, Michel and more fared in power struggle. The early years of the woman nominated as European Commission president. The Socialist MEP made an unexpected last-minute run to head the legislature.

In proposing Christine Lagarde for top job, EU leaders choose politics over economics. Nominees for top jobs have robust foreign policy credentials. SPD pins hopes on dual leadership system to help win back voters. Rome strengthens its hand amid empty budget threats and political deadlock in Brussels. The woman nominated for Commission chief has plenty of critics back home.

Search Term Search. Login Register. Brussels Commission Parliament Council. Share on Twitter. European voters are confused and afraid — and that could be good news for the European Union. Log In Log in to access content and manage your profile. EU member states work together to set policy and promote their collective interests through several common institutions. Decisionmaking processes and the role played by EU institutions vary depending on the subject under consideration. For most economic and social issues, EU member states have largely pooled their national sovereignty and EU decisionmaking has a supranational quality.

Decisions in some areas, such as foreign policy, require the unanimous approval of all 28 member states. The EU's institutions do not correspond exactly to the traditional branches of government or division of power in representative democracies; rather, they reflect the EU's dual supranational and intergovernmental character.

The European Council acts as a strategic guide and driving force for EU policy. It is composed of the heads of state or government of the EU's 28 member states, the European Council President currently Donald Tusk , and the President of the European Commission; the council meets several times a year in what are often termed EU summits. The European Council President organizes the council's work, seeks to ensure policy continuity, and facilitates consensus.

It implements and manages EU decisions and common policies, ensures the provisions of the EU's treaties are carried out properly, and has the sole right of legislative initiative in most policy areas. It is composed of 28 Commissioners, one from each country; each Commissioner holds a distinct portfolio e. It enacts legislation, usually based on proposals put forward by the European Commission and agreed to in most cases by the European Parliament. In a few sensitive areas, such as foreign policy, the Council of Ministers holds sole decisionmaking authority.

It consists of ministers from the 28 national governments; different ministers participate in council meetings depending on the subject e. The EP currently consists of members who are directly elected in the member states for five-year terms. Members of the European Parliament MEPs caucus according to political affiliation rather than nationality; there are currently eight such political groups in the EP spanning the political spectrum from the far left to the far right.

The next EP elections are due in May ; as these elections presumably will be held after the UK ceases to be a member of the EU, the number of seats contested is expected to decrease to A number of political and economic factors are contributing to the current uncertainty surrounding the future of the EU. To varying degrees, they are also challenging the legitimacy and structure of the EU and its institutions.

The global recession significantly affected EU economies, and the subsequent eurozone debt crisis sparked concerns about the fundamental structure and viability of the member eurozone, the EU's flagship integration project. For almost a decade, many EU countries struggled with weak economic growth and persistently high unemployment. Some EU governments imposed unpopular austerity measures in an effort to rein in budget deficits and public debt. To stem the eurozone crisis, European leaders and EU institutions responded with a variety of policy mechanisms.

The eurozone crisis also put pressure on Europe's banking system, leading to the collapse of insolvent banks in several countries and an EU recapitalization plan for Spanish banks. In , amid ongoing financial difficulties and disputes with its EU creditors, prospects grew that Greece might exit the eurozone dubbed "Grexit". Although Grexit was averted when the Greek government acceded to eurozone demands for more austerity and economic reforms in exchange for a new financial assistance package, the fraught negotiations generated significant acrimony within the EU.

While France and Italy emphasized the political importance of maintaining the integrity of the eurozone, Germany and others such as the Netherlands, Finland, Slovakia, and Slovenia stressed the need to adhere to eurozone fiscal rules. Tensions also persisted between Greece, its eurozone creditors, and the IMF over the terms of Greece's assistance program and the need for debt relief. Some suggest that given how close the EU came to Grexit, the crisis called into question the eurozone's irreversible nature. Others contend that the eurozone has emerged stronger from its debt crisis and near-Grexit experience.

Since , the EU has taken steps to bolster the eurozone's architecture and improve fiscal discipline among member states. Following the Greek crisis in , both France and Germany have sought to work together on some measures to strengthen the eurozone's economic governance, although reaching agreement between themselves and among all eurozone members remains challenging. Since early , the EU's overall economic prospects have improved, with a sustained economic recovery taking hold across most of the EU. Although some concerns exist about an unfavorable external environment amid growing trade tensions including with the United States , the European Commission predicts EU growth will remain resilient.

Some economic anxieties linger, however. Several EU countries continue to struggle with sluggish growth and high unemployment especially among young people in countries such as Spain and Italy. Although Greece received a degree of debt relief in June its eurozone creditors agreed to extend loan maturities due in by 10 years to ease Greece's repayment burden and officially exited its financial assistance program in August , Greece's economy remains fragile.

Austerity measures are still in place, the country faces a long road to a full economic recovery, and questions persist about the strength of Greece's banking system. Increasingly, some experts voice renewed concerns about financial stability in Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy.

Following Italian elections in March , a new coalition government took office composed of two largely antiestablishment, populist parties that are critical of the EU and believe eurozone fiscal rules have constrained Italy's economic growth. In September , the Italian government unveiled a new budget for that rejects austerity measures and foresees significantly higher public spending.

The European Commission has demanded that the Italian government revise its budget plans, but Italy has so far declined to do so and is expected to face EU disciplinary action for breaching EU fiscal rules. Italy ultimately could face financial sanctions.

Some experts worry that this budget dispute could reignite investor concerns about Italy's debt sustainability and threaten the eurozone's integrity and stability again.

The European Union: Ongoing Challenges and Future Prospects

Since the release of its budget, Italy's borrowing costs have risen and key credit rating agencies have downgraded Italy's debt rating. Over the last several years, many EU countries have seen a rise in support for populist, nationalist, antiestablishment political parties. These parties are often termed "euroskeptic" because many have also been fueled by worries that too much national sovereignty has been relinquished to Brussels. Although not a completely new phenomenon in the EU, the uptick in support for such parties largely began in response to Europe's economic difficulties, austerity measures, and the eurozone crisis.

For some voters, how Brussels handled the eurozone crisis renewed long-standing concerns about the EU's "democratic deficit"—a sense that ordinary citizens have little say in decisions taken in faraway Brussels. Fears about globalization and a loss of European identity also have been factors in the growth in support for such parties. Populist and euroskeptic parties, however, are not monolithic.

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Most are on the far right of the political spectrum, but a few are on the left or far left. The degree of euroskepticism also varies widely among them, and they hold a range of views on the future of the EU. While some advocate for EU reforms and a looser EU in which member states would retain greater sovereignty, others call for an end to the eurozone or even to the EU itself. A range of euroskeptic parties did well in the European Parliament elections see text box , and euroskeptic parties have made significant gains in national and local elections in some countries.

For example, parties with varying degrees of euroskeptic views lead the government or are part of coalition governments in Italy, Poland, Hungary, Austria, and Finland. In Denmark, a minority government relies on a euroskeptic party to provide parliamentary support. In Germany, the anti-immigrant and euroskeptic Alternative for Germany party secured enough support in federal elections in to enter parliament, becoming the first far-right German political party to do so since the end of World War II. Such euroskeptic parties are challenging the generally pro-European establishment parties and have put pressure on mainstream leaders to embrace some of their positions.

The UK government's decision to hold the June public referendum on continued EU membership was driven largely by pressure from hard-line euroskeptics, both within and outside of the governing Conservative Party. Some euroskeptic parties may hope to influence the formation of EU policies and stem further EU integration. At the same time, opinion polls indicate that a majority of EU citizens remain supportive of the EU. Such parties, however, have struggled to form a cohesive opposition and are riddled with political divisions and different views on numerous issues including EU reforms. Antiestablishment and euroskeptic Members of the European Parliament are spread among at least three political groups in the current European Parliament, and many analysts claim that euroskeptic parties have failed to exert significant influence.

Atlhough some observers believe antiestablishment and euroskeptic parties may further increase their share of seats in the European Parliament elections due in May , it remains questionable whether these parties could form a more unified parliamentary force. At the same time, experts suggest that more Members of Parliament from such parties could further fracture the parliament and threaten the status quo in which the parliament's mainstream center-right and center-left parties traditionally exert the most control and largely drive the legislative process.

Historically, the development of the EU has been driven forward largely by several key countries acting as an "engine. Many experts suggest, however, that a strong EU "engine" has been lacking over the last few years. Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel has played a central role in responding to the eurozone crisis, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the migrant and refugee flows, critics view her as being too hesitant and tactical in many instances, rather than acting as a leader of Europe writ large. Other analysts argue that too much power in the EU has been concentrated in Germany alone, in part because leaders of other key European countries have been hindered by domestic politics and economic preoccupations.

Many viewed this as crucial for the EU's future, especially in light of Brexit. Although Macron is a committed European integrationist and has proposed ambitious EU reforms, Merkel's tenure is drawing to a close. Now in her fourth term of office, Chancellor Merkel is increasingly facing domestic opposition and challenges to her authority, including from within her own center-right political grouping, amid growing tensions over migration and asylum policy.

In late October , Merkel announced she will step down as her party's leader in December and will not run for reelection in Various commentators contend that Merkel has been too constrained domestically to pursue significant new EU initiatives along the lines advocated for by Macron. Furthermore, some observers assert that European leaders do not have a robust or shared strategic vision for the EU. Those of this view point to what they consider to be ad hoc, piecemeal responses that eschew hard decisions about further integration or fail to address issues with an eye to ensuring a strong, stable, united, economically vibrant EU in the long term.

Differences also have emerged between Germany and France on certain aspects of key issues, including potential eurozone reforms and the future of EU defense policy. A number of analysts suggest that smaller EU members, such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and the Baltic countries, are not keen to see a reinvigorated Franco-German engine in the absence of the UK, which often served as a check on more federalist impulses. Meanwhile, as noted above, Italy's current government harbors euroskeptic views and is considered unlikely to champion EU reforms.

Observers contend that the crises over Greece and migration have produced significant divisions, a high degree of acrimony, and a lack of trust among EU member states. Moreover, these crises threatened the core EU principle of solidarity. While horse-trading and protecting national interests have always been part of EU politicking, analysts assert that narrow national agendas are increasingly taking priority over European-wide solutions.

Some commentators also have begun to question the commitment of some European leaders and publics to the European integration project in light of demographic and generational changes. For younger Europeans, World War II and even the Cold War are far in the past, and some may not share the same conviction as previous generations about the need for a strong and united EU. Against this complex political and economic backdrop, the EU is grappling with several major challenges.

Many observers contend that the breadth and difficulty of these multiple issues are unprecedented. How the EU responds may have lasting implications not only for the EU itself, but also for its role as an international actor and as a key U. The UK has long been considered one of the most euroskeptic members of the EU, with many British leaders and citizens traditionally cautious of ceding too much sovereignty to Brussels.

As a result, the UK chose to remain outside the eurozone and the Schengen free movement area, and it negotiated the right to participate in only selected justice and home affairs policies. Amid the challenges to the EU over the last few years, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron faced growing pressure from hard-line euroskeptics, both within his own Conservative Party and outside of it, to reconsider the UK's relationship with the EU.

In response, the Cameron government announced it would renegotiate the UK's membership conditions with the EU and hold an "in-or-out" public referendum on the UK's continued membership in the EU. In February , Cameron reached a deal with other EU governments on measures that sought to better guard British sovereignty and economic interests in the EU. As noted previously, UK voters decided in favor of a British exit from the EU or "Brexit" by a relatively narrow margin of Several factors heavily influenced this outcome, including economic dissatisfaction especially among older and middle- to lower-income voters , fears about globalization and immigration, and anti-elite and antiestablishment sentiments.

The "leave" campaign appears to have successfully capitalized on arguments that the UK would be better off if it were free from EU regulations and from the EU principle of free movement, which had led to high levels of immigration to the UK from other EU countries. The UK government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, enacted the results of the referendum in March by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union—the so-called exit clause, which outlines procedures for a member state to leave the EU. The invocation of Article 50 triggered a two-year period for withdrawal negotiations to be concluded.

EU-UK negotiations on the UK's pending withdrawal, which is widely expected to occur in March , have been contentious. In December , the EU and the UK reached an agreement in principle covering main aspects of three priority withdrawal issues the Irish border, the rights of UK and EU citizens, and the financial settlement. The UK government and public remains largely divided on whether it wants a "hard" or "soft" Brexit.

As such, and despite the December accord with the EU, fleshing out many of the details related to the UK's withdrawal—including on customs arrangements and trade relations—has proved difficult.

A key sticking point has been devising a "backstop" for Northern Ireland—a sort of insurance policy to guarantee there will be no "hard" land border with customs and security checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Although UK and EU officials have repeatedly pledged to avoid a hard border to protect the Northern Ireland peace process, reaching precise agreement on how a backstop would function has not been easy.

The protracted negotiations have prompted fears of a "no deal" scenario in which the UK would "crash out" of the EU in March without settled arrangements in place. In mid-November , UK and EU negotiators announced they had concluded a draft withdrawal agreement outlining the terms of the "divorce" and a draft political declaration setting out the broad contours of the future UK-EU relationship. The backstop arrangement in the draft withdrawal agreement essentially would keep all of the UK in a customs union with the EU with areas of deeper regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the EU pending agreement on a more preferable solution in the forthcoming negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

UK officials maintain that it will never be necessary to implement the backstop. EU leaders approved the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on November 25, but concerns are growing that Prime Minister May's government may not have sufficient votes to secure the necessary approval in the UK Parliament. The backstop and other elements of the draft withdrawal agreement face opposition from a diverse group of UK parliamentarians with varying concerns.

Some critics argue that the proposed withdrawal agreement ties the UK too closely to the EU and leaves the UK in a "half in, half out" situation where it will be forced to accept many EU rules without having a say in EU decisionmaking. Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party DUP —which lends parliamentary support to May's minority government—and others worry that the potential backstop could ultimately threaten the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

Fears of a "no deal" scenario thus persist. Some observers view the EU as taking a tough line in Brexit negotiations—refusing to allow the UK to "cherrypick" the benefits of the EU without assuming the required obligations—in part to discourage other member states and euroskeptic publics from contemplating a break with the EU that would further fracture the bloc.

Although conventional wisdom holds that most EU countries are simply too small to "go it alone," some EU officials worry that Brexit could undermine the EU if it prompts other countries to demand special membership conditions or additional policy opt-outs. Other experts note that the considerable difficulties the UK is facing in pursuing Brexit have served as a cautionary tale for publics in other EU countries and contributed to increased support for the EU in most other member states. EU leaders maintain that "the Union of 27 countries will continue," 15 but the departure of a member state is unprecedented in the EU's history.

Brexit will have political and economic repercussions for both the UK and the EU. Along with Germany and France, the UK has long been viewed as one of the EU's "big three" and has served as a key driver of certain EU initiatives, especially EU efforts to forge more common foreign and security policies. Some experts suggest that given the UK's foreign policy clout and defense capabilities, Brexit could diminish the EU's role as an international actor. At the working level, EU officials are aggrieved to be losing British personnel with significant technical expertise and negotiating prowess on issues such as sanctions and dealing with countries like Russia and Iran.

Brexit also might dampen prospects for further EU enlargement, in part because the UK had long been one of the staunchest supporters within the EU of continued expansion, including to Turkey. At the same time, some contend that Brexit could ultimately lead to a more like-minded EU, able to pursue deeper integration without UK opposition. For example, Brexit could strengthen the prospects for closer EU defense cooperation because the UK traditionally served as a brake on certain measures in this area.

Concerns have grown over the last few years about what many EU officials and observers view as democratic backsliding in some member states, particularly Poland and Hungary. EU leaders and civil society organizations have criticized both countries for passing laws and adopting policies that appear to conflict with basic EU values and democratic norms. In Poland, EU concerns center on judicial and media reforms undertaken since by the ruling conservative-nationalist Law and Justice Party PiS that opponents charge increase government control over the courts and public broadcasters.

Many observers contend that there has been a similar erosion of checks and balances in Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his conservative-nationalist Fidesz party. Since , Orban's dominant political position has allowed Fidesz to adopt a new national constitution and to reform state institutions in ways that critics argue have centralized power around the prime minister's office and have entrenched Fidesz as the dominant political party.

Many experts also assert that Orban and Fidesz increasingly are targeting media and civil society groups that oppose their policies. Both the Polish and the Hungarian governments largely dismiss EU criticisms of democratic backsliding in their countries, and both have defended their respective policies vociferously. In Poland, PiS maintains that judicial reforms were necessary to root out Communist-era judges and improve efficiency and that granting the government power to hire and fire management at public broadcasters has helped to correct political bias.

In Hungary, supporters of Orban and Fidesz argue that constitutional and electoral reforms seek to address government corruption and mismanagement.

Government officials also note that public support for PiS in Poland and Fidesz in Hungary remains steady, citing this as an indication of their democratic legitimacy. Over the past year, however, EU concerns have continued to mount and both Poland and Hungary are now subject to Article 7 proceedings —an infringement process outlined in Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union for member states accused of violating EU fundamental rights.

Ultimately, Article 7 could lead to a loss of a country's voting rights in the Council of Ministers. EU officials maintain that the goal of the Article 7 proceedings is not to sanction Poland or Hungary but rather to encourage dialogue and revisions to practices that pose concerns. Most EU officials and outside analysts view the prospects of either country actually losing its voting rights as highly unlikely, given that this would require unanimous agreement among all other EU member states and it is expected that Poland and Hungary would each block consensus for such action against the other.

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News reports suggest that additional countries such as Bulgaria and the Czech Republic also would oppose suspending the voting rights of a fellow member state. In addition, EU officials have voiced concerns recently about the rule of law and corruption in Romania and Malta. The EU is currently debating its next seven-year budget, and the European Commission has proposed tying the disbursement of EU development and other assistance funds to member states' records in upholding the rule of law. Although some member states support doing so, others—including Poland and Hungary—are opposed.

Poland and Hungary bristle at what they see as EU interference in their national sovereignty, in part because they believe that member states have ceded too much sovereignty in certain areas to Brussels. Both Poland and Hungary appear skeptical of further EU integration in some policy fields, such as migration, and charge that they are being unfairly targeted for their different views on the bloc's purpose and future shape.

Hungarian officials, including Prime Minister Orban, also contend that the initiation of Article 7 proceedings is "Brussels' revenge" for Hungary's hard-line migration policies. Other analysts contend that Poland and Hungary's apparent disregard for core EU values endangers the character of the union and undermines the trust among member states upon which the EU ultimately rests. Some criticize the EU for addressing rule-of-law concerns belatedly, especially with respect to Hungary.


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Others note that the EU has few options, as there is no mechanism for expelling a country from the EU. Over the last few years, Europe has experienced significant migrant and refugee flows as people have fled conflict and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere. According to the United Nations, more than 1 million refugees and migrants reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in , roughly , did so in , over , in , and over , thus far in Many refugees and migrants are eager to travel onward to northern EU member states.

Germany and Sweden traditionally have been preferred final destinations due to their strong economies and perceptions that they are more likely to grant asylum and provide better welfare benefits. During the height of the migrant and refugee flows in , various EU initiatives to manage the crisis proved largely unsuccessful. In , the EU began to focus on discouraging people from undertaking the journey as a way to stem the flows and save lives. In March , EU leaders agreed to end the "wave-through approach" that was allowing individuals arriving in Greece primarily across the Eastern Mediterranean from Turkey to transit the Western Balkans to seek asylum in other EU countries.

At the same time, the EU also announced an agreement with Turkey to curtail the flows to Greece. Since these arrangements with Turkey and Libya went into effect, the number of migrants and refugees reaching Europe has decreased substantially. Nevertheless, the EU deals with both Turkey and Libya have been controversial, as human rights advocates charge they violate international law and the rights of refugees.

The EU has faced considerable criticism for lacking coherent, effective migration and asylum policies, which have long been difficult to forge because of national sovereignty concerns and sensitivities about minorities, integration, and identity. Despite the overall reduction in migrants and refugees currently seeking to enter Europe, the influxes continue to have significant political and societal ramifications for the EU. These include the following:. The EU continues to work on developing a more comprehensive migration and asylum policy and on measures to better manage both legal and irregular migration.

However, progress has been slow, and many EU national governments face considerable domestic pressure for ever-stricter policies designed largely to curb continued and future migration. A particularly contentious issue centers on revising the Dublin regulation. Proposed reforms to the Dublin regulation include a "fairness mechanism" to relieve some of the burden on frontline states facing heightened asylum pressures during times of increased migratory flows, as well as measures to curb secondary movements that can strain favored destination countries.

Various EU member states oppose different elements of the proposed Dublin regulation revisions, and agreement has proven elusive to date. In the absence of EU consensus, Germany has sought to strike "bilateral or trilateral agreements" among a subset of EU countries to stop secondary movements of asylum-seekers into Germany. The German government has concluded deals on secondary movements with Spain and Greece and is reportedly working on one with Italy. Chancellor Merkel contends that she remains supportive of an EU-wide solution on secondary movements and other asylum issues, but some analysts believe these separate deals could reinforce fractured migration and asylum policies among EU member states and further inhibit agreement on common EU measures.

EU member states are divided on other potential migration policies, and implementation of agreed policies is often difficult. In June , EU leaders announced they would set up "controlled centers" within the EU for housing asylum-seekers, processing asylum claims, and speeding repatriations of rejected asylum-seekers; they also decided to explore developing "regional disembarkation platforms" outside the EU for people saved at sea.

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However, some analysts note that these plans were vague and efforts to flesh them out have produced additional disagreements. Reportedly, no EU country has offered to host a "controlled center" on its territory, and some member states question whether it is feasible and legal to establish "disembarkation platforms" outside the EU. The latter would require the EU to persuade non-EU countries primarily in Africa to host such facilities; press reports indicate that some countries, such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya, have ruled out doing so.

EU officials assert that they remain strongly committed to Schengen and have sought to improve EU border controls. Among other measures, in October , a new European Border and Coast Guard became legally operational. It reinforces Frontex the EU's border management agency and seeks to bolster member states' capacities at the external borders through joint operations and rapid border interventions. European Commission President Juncker has called for strengthening Frontex further by increasing its staff from 1, currently to 10,; news reports suggest, however, that this proposal may be encountering resistance from some member states that worry about a larger agency with potentially new powers encroaching on national sovereignty.

Over the past several years, the EU has struggled with how best to address significant changes in Europe's security environment. The most prominent concerns relate to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, a more militarily assertive Russia, and terrorist activity in Europe linked to the Islamic State organization. Such issues have challenged the EU's ability to forge common foreign and security policies often complicated by the need to reach consensus among all member states and to advance integration in the area of Justice and Home Affairs. The heightened terrorism threat also poses risks to the Schengen area of free movement.

Like the United States, the EU has been forced to reconsider its relationship with a more assertive Russia and the implications for European security and stability. The EU has sought to support Ukraine's political transition, condemned Russia's annexation of Crimea in March , and strongly urged Russia to stop backing separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. The EU has worked both to engage Russian President Vladimir Putin in promoting a political solution to the conflict in Ukraine and to impose a series of sanctions on Russia including those targeting the financial, energy, and defense sectors of the Russian economy.

Crafting common EU policies has been arduous, however, given the different national histories and economic relations with Russia among the EU's various member states. The EU has tied lifting its Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia to the full implementation of the Minsk peace agreements for Ukraine, and the EU appears committed to maintaining sanctions.

At the same time, questions persist in some EU countries about the sanctions' effectiveness, especially amid concerns that they could be hindering EU relations with Russia on other global priorities and harming European business interests. The EU sanctions and Russian countersanctions have come with financial costs for certain industries in some EU member states, including Germany, Finland, and the Baltic states. Beyond Ukraine, the EU and many member states are concerned about a range of other Russian activities, including Russian disinformation efforts and potential election interference in Europe, Russian actions in Syria, cyber threats, and alleged human rights abuses.

EU leaders condemned the March nerve agent attack that Russia allegedly carried out in the United Kingdom against former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter. In October , the EU approved a new legal framework that will allow it to impose sanctions on persons and entities involved in the development and use of chemical weapons.

Although this measure is not aimed at Russia specifically, observers largely view the Skripal attack as providing political impetus. The EU has not yet named individuals or entities subject to these new sanctions, but many analysts expect that the two Russian intelligence officers suspected of carrying out the Skripal attack will be among those ultimately designated.

At the same time, fundamental differences exist among EU countries about how best to manage Russia in the longer term. Some still hope that Russia can be a partner for the EU, maintaining that Russia is too big to isolate or ignore and that, ultimately, Europe's stability and security depend on forging good relations with Moscow. Many EU countries have extensive commercial ties with Russia including Germany and Italy and rely on Russia to help meet their oil and gas needs. Some European policymakers also argue that Russian cooperation is essential to solving key international challenges, including the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Other EU countries are more inclined to view Russia as a potential threat and appear to favor a harder stance toward Russia. Many EU governments have been alarmed by the uptick in Russian military exercises and incursions by Russian fighter jets into the airspace of countries such as Sweden and Denmark.

Some European leaders and EU officials—including several dozen Members of the European Parliament—advocate for an "EU Magnitsky Act" to impose sanctions on Russians complicit in human rights abuses, money-laundering activities, and other "anti-democratic" activities similar to U. The UK and the Netherlands also reportedly are pressing for new EU sanctions against people and organizations that carry out cyberattacks, which could be used against Russian individuals and groups. EU countries with histories of Soviet domination are particularly wary of Russia and President Putin's intentions.