Ukraine EU candidate, Draghi pushes gas price ceiling

Ukraine EU candidate, Draghi pushes gas price ceiling
Ukraine EU candidate, Draghi pushes gas price ceiling

The EU, challenged by Russia with the aggression of Ukraine, responds with a geopolitical move. The European Council has granted theUkraine and Moldova have the status of candidate countries to join the European Union. Georgia also gets a “European perspective”, which should also lead Tbilisi to candidacy, as long as it makes some reforms. The Union, faced with the war unleashed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, goes to a point that was unthinkable until a few months ago.

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French President Emmanuel Macron explains the rationale for the unanimous choice made by European leaders: once NATO said “no” to Ukraine’s accession, “a void was opened: if we had not held out our hand in Kiev and Chisinau “,” a strategic and geopolitical vacuum “would have remained, in the absence of a ‘second circle’ of the EU such as the one proposed only by the European Political Community. This is exactly, he said, “the meaning of this European perspective and the recognition of the status of candidate country” for Ukraine, Moldova and, in perspective, also for Georgia.

Today is a historic day for the EUin which we decide what the European Parliament asked four months ago, from February 24, when Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine “, claims the President of the Parliament Roberta Metsola, the first political leader of the EU to go on a visit to Kiev, from the very beginning sided with Ukrainians who fight “for our values.” The granting of candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova is accompanied by a request to the Commission to report to the Council on every step of the process and on progress made by countries.

For the EU, however, the secretary of the Democratic Party Enrico Letta, former MEP, noted in Brussels, “a very strong message on a global level and to Vladimir Putin: touching Ukraine means touching Europe. Such a strong message does not had ever been given. ” Of course, from having the status of a candidate country to joining the EU the road is very long: it will take years for Kiev to actually join the Union. Macron himself recalls that it is only the “beginning of a journey”.

However, the geopolitical scope of the decision taken today is not negligible, given that all three countries have pieces of their territory occupied by Russian troops: Ukraine, which is in open war with Moscow, in the Donbass, in the Crimea and in the south. of the country; Moldova in Transnistria and Georgia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

However, it is not a question of immediate membership: the process is complex, very long and reversible. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, very annoyed by the failure to start accession negotiations, due to Bulgaria’s veto on North Macedonia due to bilateral disagreements on the status of the Bulgarian minority in Macedonia, was sharp: North Macedonia, he recalled , has been “candidate” to join the EU “for 18 years, Albania for eight. So, welcome Ukraine: it is a good thing to give it the status of candidate country, but I hope that the Ukrainian people do not have too many illusions”.

The leaders reiterate their financial support for Ukraine, even if the 9 billion euro aid package the Commission is working on is not of great urgency, given that Kiev would have enough resources for now to make the state work, even by printing money . Reflections on financial technicalities are underway, as these would be guarantees provided by the Member States and not a cash payment: Germany, for internal reasons, has less difficulty in giving a billion in cash than in providing a guarantee.

The commitment is also reiterated to provide “further military support” to Kiev so that it can exercise the “right to self-defense” against the Russian invader. However, a technical reflection is underway on the advisability of continuing to use the European Peace Facility, almost half of which has been absorbed by military aid in Kiev.

Another major issue, closely linked to the Ukraine dossier, is the Western Balkans and enlargement, which with this Council, after years in which it had lost its centrality, comes back strongly in the foreground. Neighborhood issues, Macron stressed, “are more essential than ever”, because “the war has returned to European soil”. An ad hoc summit was dedicated to the countries of the former Yugoslavia that are not yet in the EU (Croatia will also join the euro next year) and Albania, which was also attended by the leaders of Serbia, Albania and Albania. North Macedonia, who had mentioned the possibility of not going to Brussels, given that the start of accession negotiations of the last two countries is still blocked by Bulgaria’s veto in Skopje.

With the okay to the candidacy of Ukraine and Moldova, provoked by the war unleashed by Moscow, the countries of the Balkan area that have been in line for some time fear that they will be bypassed: the EU leaders wanted to reassure them, reaffirming the European perspective of the area, but the Bulgarian veto has not yet been removed (Kiril Petkov’s government was disheartened yesterday, among other things), which is why accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia will not start for now. Albanian Rama observed that if Vladimir Putin “is not well”, the EU certainly does not enjoy “good health”, given that “26 member states” are “powerless” in the face of Bulgaria’s veto. I veto that in the conclusions the leaders invite Sofia to overcome “quickly”, so that the negotiations with Tirana and Skopje can be “opened without delay”.

High Representative Josep Borrell, who did not hide his “disappointment” at how the enlargement is proceeding, is also angry: “Things are not going well”, he said, stressing once again that the unanimity rule “is a big problem “, because it prevents” decisions “from being made. For Bosnia-Herzegovina, a solution along the lines of Georgia is being envisaged, with a candidacy perspective provided that a series of reforms are made first, even if the Republic has made little progress in recent times. The conclusions call on Sarajevo to “rapidly implement the commitments made on 12 June” in Brussels, in order to “move decisively along the European path”. The EU-Western Balkans summit, however, did not go very well, so much so that the final press conference was officially canceled, due to time constraints, and that EU sources speak of a “frank” discussion.

The heads of state and government also discussed how to relaunch the enlargement process and above all how to keep the countries that are at some stage of the accession process more linked to the EU, given that the process becomes “longer and longer “. The third geopolitical topic, discussed at dinner, is that of an enlarged Europe, that is, how to organize the space between the EU and the Russian Federation, also on the basis of Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to create a European Political Community, a second looser circle around the Union. The intention is also to identify the countries destined to have closer relations with the Union. Today, however, the Eurosummit will be held, in an inclusive format, in which the economic situation will be discussed together with the president of the ECB Christine Lagarde and the president of the Eurogroup Paschal Donohoe.

In this context leaders will talk about inflation and certainly about energyan issue that was not officially on the agenda, but which is there returned in full, by the Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The premier decisively pushes, already today, on the roof at the price of gas. Among EU leaders there are still those who think that intervening in an already “disturbed” market could create further problems, observes a senior official. A passage that refers to the use of energy as a weapon and that recalls the conclusions of the European Council of 30-31 May, in which the possibility of introducing a ceiling on the price of the gas, giving a mandate to the Commission to study this possibility. But for Draghi, who knows the functioning of the Brussels buildings well, this is not enough.

Italy is pushing so that no time is wasted: EU sources on Wednesday even indicated “September-October” as a period in which decisions could be made on the energy front, but by then winter will be upon us, while gas stocks go filled in the summer: the problem of high gas prices, which Russia benefits from, should be tackled urgently. There is a half opening by Mark Rutte, prime minister of Holland, who has always been against the setting of a price cap: he said that The Hague is not “emotionally or in principle against” the hypothesis, but fears that it doesn’t work. However, he added that it is an “under evaluation” measure, without excluding it.

Draghi, who knows how to affect a Brussels does not use to deal with overly assertive Italian premieres (many remember that at his first European Council as premier he ‘scrambled’ von der Leyen on the data relating to vaccines), held the point and pushed on accelerator. He asks for the convening of an extraordinary European Council on energy in July, also because the mandate to the Commission to study the price cap was given at the end of last month and nothing has yet been seen: think about talking about it again in the autumn, four months later, it’s almost disrespectful. The decision whether or not to convene the Council, however, rests with Charles Michel.

Finally, the leaders will talk about the conclusions of the Conference on the future of Europe, entrusting the other EU institutions with the task of dealing with how to follow up on the recommendations. But there would be no appetite, in general, to reopen the treaties, which would take a long time and unanimity among the 27, nor should they engage in a discussion on “institutional issues”, predicts an EU Source.

In the discussions, but not in the conclusions, the enclave (or exclave, more properly) of Kaliningrad is also mentioned, after Russia threatened Lithuania with consequences for the civilian population, given that Vilnius has decided to apply EU sanctions also to trains running between ancient Koenigsberg and Russia. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis also recalled that starting from December the EU sanctions will also apply to oil and derived products. High Representative Josep Borrell said the SEA, the EU diplomatic service, will work to refine the guidelines, which Lithuania has applied with zeal, so as not to obstruct freight traffic between Kaliningrad and Russia. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda also agreed that EU guidelines must be subjected to ‘fine tuning’. We therefore work to prevent the situation from getting out of hand and having wider consequences.


The article is in Italian

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