EU leaders convene for extraordinary summit on Ukraine

BRUSSELS – European Union (EU) leaders have gathered on Monday for a two-day extraordinary summit to discuss the consequences of Russia's war in Ukraine.

The 27 EU heads of state and government will start the meeting by discussing the latest developments in Ukraine and the bloc’s efforts in helping the country in the face of Russian aggression.

The leaders will evaluate the latest proposal of the European Commission on providing an additional €9 billion (USD9.6 billion) macro-financial assistance for Ukraine to cover its immediate liquidity needs.

They are also expected to assess the future of frozen Russian assets after the EU executive body presented on Wednesday a draft package that allows the assets of oligarchs who break EU sanctions to be confiscated.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also suggested earlier that frozen Russian assets should be used for Ukraine’s reconstruction if it is legally possible.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will join his EU counterparts via video link for a part of the negotiations.

Sanctions, energy crisis

The leaders’ summit is slightly overshadowed by the stalled negotiations on the bloc’s sixth sanctions package against Russia.

In a letter sent to European Council President Charles Michel, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban refused on Tuesday to discuss the oil embargo at the summit.

He said Hungary cannot support the bloc’s sanctions package without having more details on EU financial help for his landlocked country to replace Russian energy dependency.

Speaking to EU reporters on condition of anonymity, an EU official said the restrictive measures against Russia will be discussed “quite frankly” and the sanctions draft has changed since Orban’s letter.

However, EU ambassadors were still unable to find an agreement on the sanctions package during the weekend.

The leaders will also talk about the European Commission’s €210-billion REPowerEU plan.

The proposal is meant to reduce dependency on Russian energy and cut gas imports by two-thirds by the end of this year by accelerating the green transition into renewables and securing fossil fuel supply.

Food security, defense

On the second day of the summit, the EU leaders will discuss the bloc’s response to the global food shortage exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, including plans on transporting Ukrainian grains by curbing the Russian blockade at the Black Sea.

The African Union’s chairperson, Macky Sall, will also participate in the session on food security via video link.

As an EU official said, the bloc’s main message for the African Union will be that “sanctions are not responsible for rising food prices, it is the Russian aggression” that causes food insecurity.

As the last point of the agenda, the EU leaders will talk about the European Commission’s initiatives to address the shortfalls in the European military procurements.

The plans involve better coordination of military procurements and joint purchases, as well as support for the European defense industry. (Anadolu)