BERLIN: Tough new economic sanctions against Russia will hurt Germany’s economy but they are necessary for the sake of peace in Europe, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in a television interview on Sunday.The European Union imposed sanctions that took effect on Friday targeting Russia’s banking, defence and energy sectors because of Moscow’s support for pro-Russian separatist rebels battling Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine. “We can’t behave as if we’re just a community of economic interests, because we’re a political union and have to do what we can to ensure peace on this continent,” said Gabriel, who is also economy minister and head of the Social Democrats (SPD). Germany, the EU’s largest economy, has extensive trade ties with Russia but Chancellor Angela Merkel became a firm advocate of the tougher measures against Moscow after the downing of an airliner last month over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by the rebels. All 298 people on board the plane were killed.
“What would happen if the European Union didn’t react?” Gabriel said in the ZDF TV interview, to be aired later on Sunday, the 100th anniversary of Germany’s declaring war on France in 1914.
“If all the lessons learned in Europe are that someone can start a civil war in a neighbouring country and nothing happens, then that would cost a lot more than a few percentage points of possible growth,” he said.Gabriel said in the interview that economic setbacks as a result of the Ukraine crisis were unavoidable. “There would be much, much greater negative consequences if Europe did not act ... Where war and peace are at stake, economic policies can’t be the main concern,” said Gabriel, who has chaired recent cabinet meetings while Merkel is on holiday. “We’re going to have disadvantages in Europe, but not doing anything would be much worse. That would mean it’s possible to play with fire in Europe, and you could invade a neighbour or support civil wars next door ... Doing nothing is not something we can do.”
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