France deems it necessary to have a EU-Russia dialogue in order to defend the bloc’s stability and interests, the country’s president said on the sidelines of the EU summit.

Speaking to media in Brussels, Emmanuel Macron said that Russia was discussed at the summit in which all 27 European leaders, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel were present.

“We assume this dialogue is necessary for the stability of the European continent and to defend our interests as Europe. I think this is the right way to move forward,” he said.

He acknowledged that the dialogue might be difficult to happen, adding: “It will be demanding because we will not give up any of our values.”

France and Germany have put forward a proposal for a “structured discussion” between the EU leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and are convincing the opposing EU members to put up a united front in the dialogue.

“We cannot remain in a purely reactive logic with regard to Russia on a case-by-case basis,” Macron said, stressing on the need for a comprehensive dialogue while alluding Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine and outstanding contentious issues between the EU and Moscow – including the Crimea conflict, human rights violations against opposition figures, supply of natural gas from Nordstream pipeline.

The EU has been criticized for its lack of common approach in its response over conflicts with the Kremlin.

Macron said he hoped to have this “demanding and ambitious dialogue” with a “real European coordination and European unity.”

The initiative came after Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined hands in April to find a political solution to resolve the military crisis in Ukraine and jointly called on Russia to dismantle troops at the Ukraine border.

France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia came together under the Normandy Format talks in 2014, after Russia’s invasion in the Donbas region.​​​​​​​

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