As reported by Censor.NET citing Reuters, the sanctions appear likely to remain in place for now, especially those slapped over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula seized by Russia in March 2014, despite the legal and political challenges of maintaining them.
"It will be increasingly difficult to go on extending the sanctions. But this could be done if the key skeptics are convinced that there are other elements in the EU's policy on Russia, not just sanctions," a senior EU official told Reuters.
"There will be those who want to lower the bar for Russia, give a signal that if only Moscow makes a little move, the EU would want to normalize the situation a bit. Then there will be those who want to raise the bar," a second EU official said.
"Eventually we'll stay more or less where we are. The advantage of those who want easing is that you need unanimity to extend sanctions. But no one wants to be alone in blocking (an extension). It would be different if a few of them came out together," the official said.
Countries skeptical about extending sanctions include Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Hungary. They are keen to return to doing business with Russia, the EU's main gas supplier, not least to help offset Europe's sluggish economic growth.
A series of Reuters investigations recently showed how European companies including German retailer Metro and France's Auchan were doing business in Crimea despite the punitive sanctions regime there.
EU leaders will review the state of relations with Russia at a summit on Oct. 20-21, with the hawks' camp weakened by Britain's decision to leave the bloc and by increased strains between Brussels and Poland's nationalist-minded government.
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