The 27 are progressing, a little, to better arm Ukraine

(Brussels) European leaders, meeting Thursday in Brussels, timidly progressed on the path of increased military aid to Ukraine, after a new call for help from its president, and in the face of a Russian threat considered to be increasingly more worrying.

They decided on Thursday to “move forward” with a plan to use profits from Russia’s frozen assets in the EU to arm Ukraine.

The interest on these assets represents between 2.5 and 3 billion euros per year, according to the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell.

“We are determined to act very quickly so that we can use part of this money to support Ukraine,” said the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, during a press conference on Thursday evening.

Russia on Wednesday threatened the European Union with legal action “for decades”, denouncing an initiative which amounts to “banditry” and “theft”.

It is “crucial” that the European Union provides more ammunition to the Ukrainian forces, launched Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the leaders of the Twenty-Seven whom he joined by videoconference.

Kyiv continues to ask its allies to speed up their deliveries of weapons and shells, but Western aid is running out of steam.

The Europeans are looking for ways to strengthen the Ukrainian arsenal, as well as their own defense industry, at a time when American aid of more than 60 billion dollars is still blocked in Congress in Washington.

Among them, a plan aimed at using the exceptional profits generated by Russian assets frozen in Europe since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

“Ukraine acts as a shield for Europe. It is therefore our responsibility to also act as a shield for Ukraine,” argued the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola.

“Innovative” financing

In addition to seizing income from frozen Russian assets, other “innovative” forms of financing are being studied.

The 27 thus asked the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s financing body, to expand its loans to defense companies.

But for Mr. Zelensky, time is running out. “Please do not waste the necessary time” to strengthen the defense industry, he asked.

For weeks, Russian forces have regained the initiative on the battlefield against the Ukrainians lacking ammunition and weapons.

Russia, for its part, put its economy on a war footing and received hundreds of thousands of shells from North Korea.

The EU wants to strengthen its arms production capacities, but faces a lack of funding to achieve this.

France and other countries such as Estonia are in favor of launching a large European loan in order to respond, as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the “existential” threat weighing on the Europe.

A “now” solution

“There are several possible avenues to explore,” including a European loan, said the French, Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Portuguese and Romanian foreign ministers in a joint letter.

But several countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, are opposed to it, and the Twenty-Seven only committed on Thursday to examining “all options” in terms of financing. “I am not convinced that “Eurobonds” (European loans) are the solution to everything,” declared the Belgian Prime Minister, in unison with other very reluctant countries.

European leaders also managed to adopt a joint declaration on the situation in Gaza.

In this text, the first of 27 since the end of October, they demand an “immediate humanitarian pause” with a view to a lasting ceasefire and call on Israel not to launch an offensive in Rafah, in the south of the strip. from Gaza.

Very divided on the subject, they had given up on a common text during their two previous summits, in December and February.

Finally, on Thursday they gave the green light to the opening of accession negotiations with Bosnia-Herzegovina, which will only begin once a certain number of reforms have been carried out by this Balkan country.


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