Juncker confirms attendance at next month’s St. Petersburg Forum

Both Moscow and Brussels have confirmed that the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker will attend Russia’s St. Petersburg Forum next month where he is expected to meet President Putin. It will be the first visit to Russia by the head of an EU institution since the annexation of Crimea, and will come just as the  sanctions imposed by the West after the annexation are up for renewal. It also falls less than three weeks before a NATO summit in Warsaw.  
Confirmation of Juncker’s visit is likely to provoke mixed reactions from EU member states, with Poland and the Baltic States in particular opposed to the resumption of working relations with the Kremlin, warning that Moscow is likely to use Juncker’s presence to create the impression that it back to business as usual; and while the EU is expected to prolong the sanctions imposed on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine, other EU states are pushing for the restoration of relations with Moscow.
The French Senate is scheduled to debate the future of sanctions on June 8, while Italy has also expressed a desire to soften the EU’s position on Moscow.
European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told reporters that the visit would “convey to the Russian leadership, as well as to a wider audience, the EU’s perspective regarding the current state of EU-Russia relations. We don’t see any inconsistency with the decision of the president to attend [the forum,]” he said.