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VERSAILLES, France – War has returned to Europe and the Continent will never be the same, EU heads and governments said on Friday. But as leaders gather for a summit at the Palace of Versailles, they struggle to adjust to their terrifying new reality.
On the one hand, they concede that many old rules must now be rewritten – to regulate unprecedented new military spending, for example.
“Two weeks ago, we woke up to another Europe in a different world,” said European Council President Charles Michel.
At the same time, many leaders cling to old tribal instincts, with frugal nations reluctant to take on new collective debt, and Western countries hesitant to admit new members to the east, including including Ukraine ravaged by war.
Perhaps most contradictory is the insistence by some leaders, including the summit’s host, French President Emmanuel Macron, that Europe itself is not at war, even though they acknowledge that Russia is not at war. invaded Ukraine precisely because of Kyiv’s westward trajectory to the EU, asserted that it would increase military support, and agreed to impose more punitive sanctions on Moscow.
“Russia’s choice under President Putin is to bring the war back to Europe,” Macron said at the summit’s closing press conference. “Russia’s unprecedented violence against Ukraine and its population is a tragic turning point to our history.”
But when pressed by a reporter about the EU’s inability to prevent conflict, Macron said: “There is a war on the ground, but we are not at war.” He added, “You’re absolutely right when you say we didn’t react in the war stage, triggered by Russian aggression, because we weren’t there in the war stage.”
Although Macron and other leaders say Putin’s invasion has permanently redrawn the security architecture in Europe, they also concede that EU countries are not remotely prepared to adopt such a strategy. new positions and asserting tough power to prevent incidents such as the bombing of a maternity hospital in Mariupol, which could constitute a war crime.
“We have a way to respond to the brutal aggression that Putin is showing,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. Fourth round of international sanctions against Russia. “And we will be determined and strong in the answer.”
Determined and strong, perhaps, but also a little chaotic and disorganized.
Michel, together with the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, announced a proposed an additional 500 million euros in EU contributions to military assistance to Ukraine through an extra-budgetary fund called the European Peace Facility. Both men give the impression that the leaders have approved the plan.
However, that contrasts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who say no decision has been made. An aide to Michel later admitted that the proposal was “on the table” but would still require formal approval by the EU Council, with a decision likely next week.
The two-day summit at the ornate palace on the outskirts of Paris was originally intended as an occasion to begin a review of EU debt and deficit regulations, with the participation of the Prime Minister. Italy Mario Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, is at the center of the effort alongside Macron.
Instead, with an agenda rewritten by war, the summit repeatedly saw EU leaders struggling to rise to the present moment with Ukraine under bombardment and more than 2 million people. refugees had to leave the country.
Leaders grapple with soaring energy prices and the potential for disruptions in supplies of key raw materials, including agricultural products, that could lead to food shortages around the world.
But heads of state and government also spent nearly five hours debating Ukraine’s demand for fast approval of its application for EU membership, even though there is technically no process. so fast. The leaders eventually settled with a powerful and symbolic statement of support.
They note that Ukraine’s application has been brought before the Commission for consideration with unprecedented speed, beginning a multi-year bureaucratic process and pledge to do everything possible to bring Ukraine closer. with the EU in the meantime.
In the meantime and without delay, we will further strengthen our relationship and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine in pursuing its European path, the leaders said. me. Ukraine belongs to our European family”. At Friday’s press conference, von der Leyen was blunt: “We have opened the way towards us for Ukraine.”
During the summit, the leaders also agreed to try to end Europe’s reliance on energy from Russia, although there were significant disagreements over how quickly that could be accomplished. and whether the goal can be achieved without increasing prices for residents and businesses.
We agreed to phase out our dependence on Russian gas, oil and coal imports as soon as possible, in which they also tasked The European Commission develops a plan of energy targets by the end of May.
Several leaders of the southern EU countries, including Draghi, used the summit to promote joint borrowing, modeled on the landmark joint debt program in the rescue plan and EU’s coronavirus pandemic economic recovery. Draghi said the war has created “the need for a complete review of the regulatory apparatus justified by this emergency. We find this argument on the Stability Pact, we find it on state aid law, we find it on the standards of importable agricultural products, we find it’s on the electricity market. “
However, Rutte and the leaders of other traditionally frugal nations were quick to reject proposals for a further general debt increase.
“The Netherlands is not in favor of euro bonds, or issuing common debt,” Rutte said after the summit, noting that it would be better to redirect funds from the post-recovery plan. EU pandemic that has yet to be spent.
In general, EU officials and diplomats believe that EU countries are quite united in the need to respond strongly to Russia’s warming and the disagreements displayed at the summit are part of a growing consensus. give and take frequently between national capitals with a wide range of interests and sensitivities. .
“There is a sense of urgency that is disseminated and shared,” said a senior official from a northern EU country. “The issues are complex and so a simple ‘we unite’ is not enough.”
Macron and other leaders noted the maritime shift in position adopted by several member states in the weeks since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, including a decision by Germany to supply arms and increase spending. national military expenditure.
More than 10 days ago, Germany decided to make historic investments. “Denmark has also made a historic choice to submit to its people within a few months the possibility of a return to the European defense and security project.” He added, “You see, everywhere on our Continent, historic choices are being made, marking a major turning point. We have to organize that at the European level to build that common capacity when it comes to defence.”
Whether the EU actually manages to act together in a common defense and security strategy once and for all remains to be seen.
Von der Leyen, at the conference’s closing press conference, urged an investigation into possible Russian war crimes, including the bombing of a maternity hospital in the eastern city of Mariupol. southern Ukraine.
“It was brutal, it was brutal,” she said. “For example, this bombardment of the maternity hospital. And I think there should be investigations into suspected war crimes. So this has to be reflected and recorded, soberly. ”
“We are on the 15th day of this terrible war,” added von der Leyen, noting that the EU has done its part to inflict economic damage on Russia with severe sanctions. “You see that the ruble is in free fall. It has lost more than 50% against the euro. You see that interest rates are skyrocketing in Russia. You see inflation skyrocket. Rating agencies now rate Russian bonds as junk, and a recession is hitting the country. This happened within 15 days.”
Macron said he believes the summit has helped leaders confront the important choices they face in the face of Russian military aggression.
“Today, we are not, we are Europeans on the ground, at war,” he said. “But we also have to share and have the courage to make historic decisions, to take responsibility for the fact that defending our democracy and our values comes at a cost, that making choices This independent choice comes at a cost and that means we sometimes question the dogmas we’ve had for years… the way we organize things and the habits we have. . ”
He continued, “And I believe I can say that the discussions yesterday and today have led to the perception of Europeans in Versailles to make progress in that direction.”
Maïa de La Baume, Lili Bayer, Giorgio Leali and Suzanne Lynch contributed reporting.
https://www.politico.eu/article/summit-leader-eu-redraw-russia-war-ukraine/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication At the summit, leaders see the EU being redrawn by Russia's war - POLITICO