After Oil Deal, EU Turns to Defense – and Ukraine Aid
European Union leaders are wrapping up a two-day summit Tuesday with discussions on energy, defense, and food security — key issues with the war in Ukraine— after striking a groundbreaking, if watered-down deal on a Russian oil ban. Europe will also be sending nearly $10 billion in much-needed aid to Ukraine.
It’s now up to European Union ambassadors to hammer out the details of the latest and toughest EU sanctions package. In the short term, it would cut three-quarters of European oil imports from Russia — those arriving by sea — and 90% of all imports by year’s end, after Germany and Poland agreed to phase out their pipeline deliveries.
“This is an important step forward,” said European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. “The remaining 10% on this one, we will soon return to the issue of this remaining 10 percent of pipeline oil.”
For now, the deal exempts Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, highly dependent on Russian energy. This latest sanctions package was held up for weeks by Hungarian leader Viktor Orban — widely seen as Putin’s closest ally in the EU.
EU leaders say the agreement does not amount to a skewed win for Orban.
“It’s a compromise. So, if I had to choose between a compromise or no sanctions at all, then I think it’s a fair compromise,”said Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Officials say Croatia is expected to replace some Russia’s oil to Hungary, but it will take time to both update Hungarian refineries and increase Croatian capacities.
The new sanctions also target other areas. It would cut off Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT international payments system, and take aim at more Russian media and individuals.
The bloc is also sending millions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine.
“We know that Ukraine needs financial support for being able to run the country. It means that they need micro financial assistance. Nine billion euros is confirmed by the European Council. And it’s also to start all the programs that will be needed for the rebuilding of the country,” said European Council President Charles Michel.
Among other areas of discussion Tuesday, EU leaders were looking at increasing their military cooperation. The bloc is one of the world’s biggest economic powers — but as EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell notes, defense is another matter.
“What we have learned from the Ukrainian war is that it’s not enough. the rule of law, it’s not enough to be a good civil power, we need to be also a military power,” he said.
Even with an EU oil embargo, experts caution Russia is profiting from the current high international prices for crude and may find other customers for its shipments.