🇪🇺 A Historic European Council
In a historic summit, the EU officially gave Ukraine and Moldova the status of EU candidate countries, whilst also discussing solutions to the current economic and geopolitical crises.
This week saw a historic EU Council Summit, where several important topics covering defence and security, foreign relation, the economic response to the burgeoning economic crisis were covered. Of course, the most important (and fantastic) news has been the providing of candidate status to both Ukraine and Moldova.
Here is a breakdown of what was discussed at the Council.
🇪🇺 Wider Europe
With EU leaders holding a strategic discussion on how to reinforce the EU’s relations with European partners, and how to foster political dialogue and strengthen the security, stability and prosperity of the European continent, we were awaiting big news from these
Discussing the a political platform for cooperating with non-EU states across the continent, Emmanuel Macron’s proposal for a European Political Community was raised. As highlighted in the 24 June 2022 Council conclusions:
“The objective would be to foster political dialogue and cooperation to address issues of common interest so as to strengthen the security, stability and prosperity of the European continent.”
While they will return to this topic in future discussions, it was made clear that this would not “would not replace existing EU policies and instruments” and that this would not be a direct challenge to the development of the European Union.
🏛️ Conference on the Future of Europe
In a move that will underwhelm many, the Council conclusions on CoFoE were brief and limited, stating only that the Council “takes note of the proposals” from the post-CoFoE and noting that it had been a “unique opportunity to engage with European citizens”.
Nontheless, it states that an “effective follow-up” to the report would be ensured by the institutions, “each within their own sphere of competences”, while rounding it off by stating that the Council “recalls the important of ensuring that citizens are informed of the follow-up”
At the front of many people’s minds, even if fatigue appears to be setting in across the general population, was the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the EU Council reiterated that it stands firmly with Ukraine, and that it will continue to provide support for the Ukrainian economy, military, and social and financial resilience.
Alongside this, the leaders summit once again “condemned Russia’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure” and demanded that Ukrainian men, women and children who had been forcible deported to Russia be allowed to return to Ukriane safely.
On top of this, they outlined “that the work on sanction will continue” and called on “all countries to allign with EU Sanctions”, whilst also making it clear that Russia, Belarus and “all those responsible for war crimes” and other crimes would be held to account with international law.
One of the most interesting points, geopolitically speaking, were the following statements where the Council first committed to further military support for the besieged candidate country:
The European Union remains strongly committed to providing further military support to help Ukraine exercise its inherent right of self-defence against the Russian aggression and defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty. To this end, the European Council calls on the Council to swiftly work on a further increase of military support.
Following this paragraph, the council directly put the blame for the current global food security crisis that is expected to have disastrous effects on global economies, and countries where food provision is significantly weaker
Russia, by weaponising food in its war against Ukraine, is solely responsible for the global food security crisis it has provoked. The European Council urges Russia to immediately stop targeting agricultural facilities and removing cereals, and to unblock the Black Sea, in particular the port of Odesa, so as to allow the export of grain and commercial shipping operations.
Whether this will lead to stronger, more concrete action to resolve this issue at the European level, nobody could say. However, the conclusions specifically @supports the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General” regarding this.
📝EU Membership Applications
With Ukraine (28 February), the Republic of Moldova (3 March), and Georgia (3 March) all having put forward EU Memberhsip Applications, there has been fierce debate across our continent about what to do with these three states.
On 17 June 2022, the Commission Recommended that these states be provided with candidate status, and this was followed by the the European Parliament wholeheartedly showing support for giving Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia the status of candidate countries, with 529 votes in favour, 45 against, and 14 abstentions.
Later in the day, we saw history being made as the Ukraine and Moldova were given the status of candidate countries by the European Council, in what President Charles Michel called “A historic moment”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy likewise hailed “a unique and historical moment”. “[I] Sincerely commend EU leaders’ decision at EUCO to grant Ukraine a candidate status”
“In Kyiv last week, we made a commitment: to work to give Ukraine the status of a candidate for EU membership. Tonight we open a new stage for Ukraine, for Moldova, for Europe. It's a historic moment.“
Unfortunately, Georgia was not provided with candidate stauts, however, this was always going to be more of a long-term game, with Georgia geographically being much further away and far more isolated.
Regardless, this news will be a huge morale boost for Ukrainian soldiers who have now been fighting for the very survival of their country for over 100 days, confounding the expectations of many and showing us that numerical advantage is not always a guarantee of victory.
But let’s be clear, this is the easy part of the process, and both Ukraine and Moldova have long, long roads ahead of them before they become full Members States of the European Union.
🇧🇬🇲🇰Bulgaria and North Macedonia
With the ongoing dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia being the key block for the North Macedonian accession negotiations to begin, there was a space resolved within the conclusions following the conference earlier on day one of the Council.
The European Council was informed about the latest developments on discussions between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. It calls for a swift resolution of the last remaining issues so that accession negotiations can be opened without delay.
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina
There was also space for the state which applied for membership way back in 2016 but has yet to be granted candidate status due to the need to reform its constitution to “meet EU fundamental rights and other standards”.
Firstly, the EU Council called “on all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina to swiftly implement the commitments set out in the agreement [made in Brussels] and urgently finalise constitutional and electoral reform, which will allow the country to advance decisively on its European path, in line with the opinion of the Commission.“
It also highlighted that it was willing and waiting to provide Bosnia and Herzegovina candidate status, but underlined that work still needed to be done.
The European Council is ready to grant the status of candidate country to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to that aim it invites the Commission to report without delay to the Council on implementation of the 14 key priorities set out in its opinion with special attention to those which constitute a substantial set of reforms in order for the European Council to revert to decide on the matter.
💶 Economic issues
Alongside the meeting of the EU Leaders was an inclusive Euro Summit, which was focused on discussions of the current economic situation, a strengthening of the European Banking Union, as well as a reinforcement of the Capital Markets Union.
Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe was optimistic as he walked into Day 2 of the EU council.
“I'm absolutely confident [we will] maintain a political consensus on what is the appropriate fiscal policy for the euro area,” he told reporters, attempting to dampen fears of an upcoming recession. “What we see happening at this moment is rather growth.”
While you can solve the EU’s economic issues in one single summit, the big news from this meeting was the end of enhanced surveillance of the Greek state, now a relic of the oversights required due to the response to the Eurozone Crisis and the damaging effects that this had on the Greek state.
Of course, much was discussed within the Council as well, and much of it was related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The council was clear that solutions need to be taken regarding the ongoing cost of living crisis, and in it’s conclusions it made the following statement:
In the face of the weaponisation of gas by Russia, the European Council invites the Commission to pursue its efforts as a matter of urgency with a view to securing energy supply at affordable prices.
However, there was more good news coming out of this summit, with Croatia having recently been given permission to join the Eurozone as it’s 20th member and introduce the Euro as it’s official currency. The Council accepted the Commission’s proposal that Croatia be allowed to adopt the Euro.
Things are looking positive for the Union in some ways, at least.
On the energy front, there was much discussion regarding what needed to be done, but we’re still in the early stages of these negotiations on what the EU wide response will be.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo expressed concern over Germany's request that citizens cut energy use.
“If we don't prepare for winter together this summer, then there is a great risk that we will have serious problems this winter…It is the last thing we need. We already have high inflation, high energy prices.”
De Croo previously supported EU-level price caps on energy, as well as the provision of “collective compensation” to those who are economically hurt by rising energy prices caused by Russia's war in Ukraine.
The Swedish PM, however, was far more cautious in how to deal with the crisis, and was against the use of payments to support citizens.
“We’re definitely in a different economic situation, with inflation and shortages of gas and electricity…[What] seems like an easy solution is not really a solution, just to put more money in the pockets of European citizens, while inflation is of course a shortage of deliveries. That won’t solve the problem, that would only increase the inflation.”
With the negotiations and discussions ongoing, and everybody trying to feel out the positions of the other members states, we’re still waiting to see where the chips will lie and how exactly the member states will line up.
Whether it is once again the frugal vs everyone else, or we breakdowns related more to the positions vis-a-vis Russia, We will Unfortunately need to wait for further summits and meetings to get more concrete responses to this.
🌍 External Relations
In a Council meeting that was full of foreign affairs and geopolitical decisions and actions, there were a few topics specifically relegated to this segment of the Council.
Firstly, as it tends to do, the EU expressed “deep concern” about the recent actions and statements of the Turkish state, and called on it to “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all EU Member States” going forward.
Recalling its previous conclusions and the statement of 25 March 2021, the European Council expects Turkey to fully respect international law, to de-escalate tensions in the interest of regional stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, and to promote good neighbourly relations in a sustainable way.
Following on from this, and with full awareness of the potential of Lukashenka declaring war on Ukraine, the EU underlined “the democratic right of the Belarusian people to have new, free and fair elections.”
It went on to call upon “authorities to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to end repression and to release political prisoners.”
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