Sunday, December 4

EU discusses new sanctions against Russia

  • Multimedia report: Summary of three weeks of invasion

The Russian invasion of Ukraine returns to dominate this Monday the agenda of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the European Union who meet in Brussels to take stock of the military situation and that of the civilian population, to discuss the application of new sanctions against the Kremlin – including a embargo on energy imports– and sending weapons in response to Russia’s indiscriminate bombardment that has hit the coastal city of Mariupol in recent days. “Russia is committing many war crimes. It has to be said. What is happening in Mariupol is a massive war crime, destroying everything, bombing and killing everyone, indiscriminately. The city is going to be completely destroyed and people will die,” lamented the High Representative for the EU’s common foreign and security policy, Joseph Borrell.

According to the diagnosis of the head of European diplomacy, the Russian invasion is not just a war but “the massive destruction” of the country because Moscow is using all its military capabilities to attack civilians, without any consideration for international law. “Morally they have lost any basis because what they are doing is completely outside of any type of law, which also governs a war. It is the destruction of people who are suffering incredibly,” he added upon arrival at the meeting, in which he will participate the foreign minister of moldova and in which they will speak with the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov.

This scenario opens the door to new sanctions of the European Union against the regime of Vladimir Putin and the approval of an additional item of 500 million euros to supply more weapons to the Government of Volodymyr Zelensky. “We continue to support Ukraine with all our resources and we will continue to see what kind of sanctions we can apply, what more we can do, especially measures related to energy,” she said. On the table of the Twenty-seven is once again the possibility of imposing an embargo on energy producers from Russia. This is a measure that generates resistance in some EU countries such as Germany and the Netherlands due to the economic impact that it would entail and the high dependence on Russian gas and oil, but which, in the opinion of other European partners, is necessary to adopt.

energy sanctions

“There is a feeling in the room that we would like to take a break because the first 3 or 4 weeks have been difficult. I think it is a very negative message for those who are fighting in Ukraine,” said the Lithuanian foreign minister, Gabrielus Landsbergis, which considers “Europe cannot give the impression of fatigue when the war in Ukraine is not over”. In his opinion, the EU must hold a debate on whether there are “Red lines“-which in his opinion Russia has already crossed- such as a biological or chemical attack and sees it as “inevitable” to start discussing sanctions against the energy sector, particularly Russian oil because it is the main “source of income for the Russian budget and it is easily replaceable for the EU due to infrastructures and multiple suppliers”.

Despite resistance from Berlin, he has expressed confidence that German public opinion will end up convincing the government to Olaf Scholz of the need to move in that direction, an idea supported by other Member States. “We are open and we think it is appropriate. In view of the extent of the destruction in Ukraine it is very difficult to think that we should not move into the energy sector, particularly oil and coal, with a view to disrupting trade,” said the irish Foreign Minister, simon coveney. “Whether we like it or not, if we continue to receive energy from Russia we continue to give financing to Russia and this has to end. In the case of Slovakia this is very difficult because we depend almost 100% on Russian oil and 80% on the politically it is a step that should be on the table and I hope for a debate when the president (of the United States) Biden comes”, explained the Slovakian minister Ivan Korkokalso in favor of accelerating Ukraine’s accession process to the EU.

strategic compass

On the table of the Twenty-seven will also be the approval of other €500 million to supply arms to Ukraine. The head of European diplomacy announced the new financial package at the last Versailles summit, although it is likely that he will not receive the endorsement until summit of European leaders on March 24 and 25, given that the authorization of the German Parliament will take place on the eve of the European event. Despite this parliamentary procedure, according to European diplomatic sources “politically” there is an agreement and there are no countries that question the new contribution through the European Peace Facility.

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The meeting of the EU defense ministers will also serve this Monday to adopt the ‘strategic compass‘, the road map designed by the Twenty-seven to strengthen its defense plans over the next decade. A strategy, the result of two years of work, the progress of which was already presented last November and which has been revised in recent weeks to take into account the new security situation created by the Russian invasion and the need to strengthen in the face of new threats.

“The document (presented in November) started by saying that Europe is in danger and now it is even more in danger. That is why we need this document. The war has returned to Europe,” diplomatic sources maintain. The document, which will be endorsed later by the leaders of the Twenty-seven at the summit at the end of the week, includes the establishment of a rapid reaction force, based on the combat groups created in 2007 but never used, equipped with 5,000 troops and capable of acting in case of crisis.

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