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Versailles, France – War is back in Europe and the continent will never be the same, EU heads of state and government said on Friday. But as the leaders gathered for a summit at the Palace of Versailles, they struggled to adapt to their frightening new reality.
On the one hand, he acknowledged that many old rules now need to be rewritten – for example, to accommodate unprecedented new military spending.
“Two weeks ago, we woke up in a different world, in a different Europe,” said European Council President Charles Michel.
At the same time, many leaders cling to the old tribal trend, thrifty countries were reluctant to take on new joint loans, and Western countries were hesitant to accept new members in the East, including war-ravaged Ukraine.
Perhaps most paradoxical was an insistence by some of the leaders, including the summit’s host, French President Emmanuel Macron, that Europe itself is not at war, even though they acknowledged that Russia followed Kyiv’s westward trajectory towards the EU. Because of the invasion of Ukraine, he insisted that he would increase military support, and agreed to impose further punitive sanctions on Moscow.
“Russia, under President Putin’s leadership, chose to bring back the war in Europe,” Macron said at the summit’s concluding news conference. “Russia’s unheard-of violence against Ukraine and its population is a tragic turning point in our history.”
But when pressed by a journalist about the EU’s inability to stop the conflict, Macron said: “There is war on the ground, but we are not at war.” He continued, “You are absolutely right that we have no response in the theater of war, which was triggered by the Russian invasion, because we are not in the theater of war.”
Although Macron and other leaders said that Putin’s invasion had permanently redrawn the security architecture in Europe, they also acknowledged that EU countries were not remotely prepared to adopt a new currency and in Mariupol Used to claim harsh power to prevent incidents like the bombing of a maternity hospital. which may be war crimes.
“We have our own way of responding to Putin’s brutal aggression,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in announcing a fourth round of international sanctions against Russia. “And we will be strong and strong in the north.”
Determined and loud, perhaps, but also a bit chaotic and disorganized.
Michel, along with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced A proposal to increase the EU contribution to €500 million in military support for Ukraine through an off-budget fund called the European Peace Facility. Both men give the impression that the leaders have approved the plan.
However, this was denied by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who said that no decision had been taken. A colleague of Michel later acknowledged that the proposal was “on the table”, but would still require formal approval by the Council of the European Union, with a decision probably coming next week.
The two-day summit in the ornate palace on the outskirts of Paris was originally intended as an opportunity to begin a rethinking of the EU’s debt and deficit rules, with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, at the center of it. . try with macros
Instead, with an agenda rewritten by war, the summit repeatedly showed EU leaders struggling to rise with Ukraine under bombardment and more than 2 million refugees already out of the country. .
Leaders wrestle with rising energy prices and potential disruption to the supply of vital raw materials, including agricultural products, that could lead to food shortages around the world.
But heads of state and government spent nearly five hours debating Ukraine’s request for fast-track approval of its application for EU membership, even though no such fast-track process technically exists. The leaders eventually settled on a strong, and symbolically significant, statement of support.
He noted that Ukraine’s application had already been placed before the Commission with unprecedented speed, triggered a year-long bureaucratic process, and in the meantime pledged to do everything possible to bring Ukraine closer to the European Union.
“Pending this and without delay,” the leaders said, “we will further strengthen our ties and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine on its European path. Ukraine belongs to our European family.” At Friday’s news conference, von der Leyen said bluntly: “We have opened the way for us to Ukraine.”
During the summit, the leaders also agreed to attempt to end Europe’s reliance on energy from Russia, although there was substantial disagreement about how quickly this could be accomplished and if the costs for citizens and businesses could be increased. target can be achieved without increasing
“We agreed to end our reliance on Russian gas, oil and coal imports as soon as possible,” the leaders declared in a final statement, in which they tasked the European Commission with developing a plan on end-to-end energy targets. assigned. May.
Some leaders of southern EU countries, including Draghi, used the summit to push for joint borrowings in the EU’s coronavirus pandemic economic rescue and recovery plan designed after the historic joint loan program. Draghi said the war has created a need for “rethinking the entire regulatory mechanism that is justified by this emergency. We find this argument on the Stability Treaty, we find it on the laws on state aid, we find it on the standards for agricultural products.” But we find those that can be imported, we find it in the electricity market.
However, Rutte and leaders of other traditional austerity countries were quick to oppose proposals for more joint loans.
“The Netherlands is not in favor of issuing Eurobonds, or joint debt,” Root said after the summit, noting that the EU’s post-pandemic recovery plan would be better to redirect money that has not yet been spent. Has been done.
Overall, EU officials and diplomats said EU countries were fairly united in Russia’s need to respond forcefully to the war, and disagreements on display at the summit were shared between national capitals with a range of interests and sensitivities. Was part of a regular give and take. ,
“There is a widespread and shared sense of urgency,” said a senior official from a northern EU country. “The issues are very complex and therefore, a simple ‘we are united’ is not enough.”
Macron and other leaders noted a sea change in positions adopted by some member states in the weeks following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, including Germany’s decision to supply weapons and increase its own national military spending. Was.
“Germany made the decision a little more than 10 days ago to make the historic investment,” Macron said. “Denmark has made a historic choice to present to its people the possibility of returning to the European Project of Security and Defense in several months.” He continued, “You see, everywhere on our continent, there are historical choices being made, which is a major turning point. When it comes to defense we have to organize it at the European level to build that common capability.” Needed.”
Whether, exactly, the EU will manage to put together its work on a common security and defense strategy once and for all remains to be seen.
At the summit’s concluding news conference, von der Leyen urged an investigation into possible war crimes by Russia, including the bombing of a maternity hospital in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
“It’s dastardly, it’s dastardly,” she said, “for example, this bombing of the maternity hospital. And I think the question of war crimes needs to be investigated. So, it needs to be seriously reflected and must be recorded.”
“We are on Day 15 of this terrible war,” von der Leyen said, noting that the EU had played its part to inflict economic damage on Russia with severe sanctions. “You see that the ruble is in free fall. It has fallen by more than 50 per cent against the euro. You see interest rates skyrocketing in Russia. You are seeing rising inflation. Rating agencies so far. Russians rate bonds as junk, and the country is going into recession. It’s within 15 days.”
Macron said he believed the summit had helped leaders face important choices in the face of Russia’s military aggression.
“Today, we are not, we are Europeans on the ground, at war,” he said. “But we must also do our part and have the courage to make historical decisions, to take responsibility for the fact that protecting democracy and our values has a cost, that freedom has a cost to making these choices and that means We sometimes question the dogmas that we had for many years … the way we organized things and the habits we had.”
He continued, “And I believe I can say that yesterday and today’s discussions have raised the awareness of Europeans at Versailles to make progress in that direction.”
Maïa de La Baume, Lili Bayer, Giorgio Leali and Suzanne Lynch contributed reporting.