In order to Michael Martin is supposed to go to the “Euroball” – finally released from a week-long Covid purdah in Washington and fly dramatically through the night to Brussels to attend the crisis summit.
That, incidentally, is the extent of the good news ahead of the intense two-day discussions between EU leaders in Brussels.
Exactly a month to the day after Russia invaded, the focus is on helping Ukraine and how the rest of Europe can cope with the multidimensional aftermath of the war, particularly tackling spiraling energy prices.
In all 27 member states there is a strong feeling that things can get very bad before things improve. Here’s a somber clue: Germany’s energy regulator is keeping tabs on the industry’s gas, electricity and other needs ahead of possible rationing next winter.
Today’s reports are dominated by the presence of US President Joe Biden, who meets his fellow leaders in NATO’s western military alliance from 30 nations, 21 of which are also EU members. After the Nato meeting, which is taking place near Brussels airport, Mr Biden will head across town to the EU quarter and meet Micheál Martin and his 26 counterparts.
The leaders will address the optimization and coordination of assistance to Ukrainian refugees, and then raise the contentious issue of sanctions against Russia. The task of the summit’s chair, former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, will be to quash divisive messages.
Led by Poland, the former Eastern Bloc states – uncomfortably close to the Ukrainian war zone – want to impose tougher sanctions on Russia more quickly. Others fear a certain “sanctions fatigue” – and Chancellor Olaf Scholf has ruled out a total embargo on Russian energy, warning parliament in Berlin that such a move would plunge the EU into recession and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
It’s not a happy subject. To be completely frank, it seems to amount to a compromise between Ukrainian life and European Union livelihood. But Vladimir Putin has benefited from internal tensions on many occasions in this conflict, so leaders must maintain at least some semblance of unity.
The Taoiseach will know that Irish voters, anxious to support the Ukrainian people in any practical way, also have a keen interest in efforts to cushion the economic fallout. If the EU is going to matter to ordinary people, they need to see results at this level.
Done yesterday in the Dáil for the Taoiseach service, Michael McGrath said talks with the EU are ongoing Commission to reduce VAT on fuel. Taxation is a Member State competence, but all countries have subscribed to a single code on VAT rates – and Ireland would need approval to make a temporary rate reduction to avoid serious tax complications in the future.
Demands from up to a dozen member states (led by Spain, Greece and others) to cap gas prices using the EU’s collective market power have met with considerable reluctance in Germany and the Netherlands and serious warnings from the EU Commission.
The move might work, and there’s the example of China to point to, but it could also jeopardize supplies and make things worse if suppliers just go somewhere else.
The big idea with the greatest chance of success is to mimic the successful mass buying of Covid vaccines in the EU for fair distribution. There’s a chance this could work for petrol – but the benefits would be for next winter at best.
The Commission has proposed a task force here.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/taoiseach-finally-leaves-his-covid-isolation-to-fly-into-an-eu-summit-grappling-with-war-in-ukraine-and-energy-price-spirals-41481014.html Taoiseach is finally leaving his Covid isolation to fly to an EU summit grappling with war in Ukraine and spiraling energy prices