EU leaders will discuss turning off Russian energy in Ukraine on Thursday in the event of Moscow’s war, but internal divisions and fears of provoking President Vladimir Putin mean they will not invite Kyiv to join his club. do.
Gathering in France’s opulent Versailles palace, the leaders of the 27 national EU will also consider defending themselves and bolstering economies. But they are prepared to disappoint Ukraine’s dramatic appeal for accelerated membership as it grapples with Russian aggression.
“It will take time,” French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said France Inter radio, adding that Ukraine’s accession to the EU was not for tomorrow.
Russia’s February 24 military offensive shattered the ashes of World War II and Europe’s security system that had emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Cru said Europe was facing its September 11 moment, a reference to the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States that led to the Washington-led invasion of Afghanistan and the so-called international “war on terror”. “Triggered the years. ,
“We are not participating, but it is at our doorstep,” de Crew told the Le Soir daily, referring to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Sept. 11 was a defining moment in the United States. This war in Ukraine is Europe’s 9/11.
The European Union has imposed sanctions of unprecedented severity on Russia for attacking its neighbor, including cutting off seven Russian banks from the SWIFT transaction system, targeting Moscow ally Belarus, and blacklisting Russian state officials and billionaire oligarchs close to the Kremlin. including doing.
“Russia’s war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history,” EU leaders said in a joint statement, adding the invasion faced “increasing instability, strategic competition and security threats”.
The European Union still pays hundreds of millions of US dollars every day to Russia, its largest energy supplier, for more than 40% of its natural gas, more than a quarter of its oil imports and about half of its coal.
While the United States has already cut Russian oil imports, the case for the EU is more complex, costly and politically sensitive as it fears a further surge in energy and food prices.
EU leaders disagree on the deadline to shut down Russian energy sources as national dependencies with Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria differ.
Russia has drawn into the European Union, including Poland and Lithuania – both once under Soviet dominance from Moscow – wanting a harsher punishment for Putin and saying the West must be prepared to pay the price of retaliation. But Germany, France and some Western European Union states want to continue doing business.
EU nations are divided over allowing Ukraine to join their prosperous union, with France and the Netherlands leading the reluctant camp against a group of strong supporters, including Poland and Ukraine’s other eastern EU neighbors.
Both sanctions and expansion – a process that usually takes years to meet strict criteria ranging from economic stability to rooting out corruption to respecting liberal human rights – need to be unanimous in the EU.
Ukraine is a former Soviet republic that now wants to join the European Union and NATO. It is a curse for Moscow where Putin launched a “special military operation” to derail Ukraine’s campaign for deeper integration with Western democracies.
The Russian military has bombed Ukrainian cities and sent two million refugees to the European Union. Kyiv has appealed for more Western help beyond economic sanctions and some arms supplies.
But, wary of being directly dragged into war while being hit economically, the EU is more likely to offer Ukraine words of moral support as it prepares for years of worsening confrontation with Russia inside. looks towards.