28th Sep 2023

EU summit to warn Russia of 'severe cost' over Ukraine

  • EU leaders will discuss Omicron, migration, energy prices, strategic autonomy, Belarus and Ukraine at their end-of-year summit (Photo: European Council)
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EU leaders are expected to warn Vladimir Putin not to push further with the military aggression against Ukraine - or pay a high cost, at their summit in Brussels on Thursday (16 December).

The EU-27 are expected to reiterate their full support for Ukraine and tell Russia that "further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences and severe cost in response", according to a draft statement by leaders seen by EUobserver.

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EU leaders will gather in Brussels discuss Covid-19 - particularly the new, highly-transmittable Omicron variant - rising energy prices, migration, and give a stern warning to Moscow.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs on Wednesday (15 December) that the EU is ready to scale up its sanctions and take "unprecedented measures" against Russia if it shows further aggression towards Ukraine.

Von der Leyen said the EU is working closely with the US in drawing up options that go beyond the existing sanctions targeting Russia's financial and energy sectors.

"Our response to any further aggression may take the form of a robust scaling-up and expansion of these existing sanctions regimes," she said.

"We are ready to take additional, unprecedented measures with serious consequences for Russia," von der Leyen added.

Details of specific actions the EU and member states are willing to take are so far sketchy, as further economic sanctions could also hurt EU economies.

Measures could include cutting Russian banks off from the Western financial system, and Germany committing not to put the North Stream 2 pipeline - which would transport Russian gas - into service.

"The message is quite clear, if this line is crossed, there is going to be a very high cost. The EU has instruments that can make this price very high," one senior diplomat said, adding that all leaders understand the concerns of Poland and the Baltic countries.

"All of us are prepared to put our money where our mouth is if the red line is crossed," the diplomat added.

However, there are disagreements among member states on how to proceed: whether to put measures on the table already now as a deterrent, whilst some large member states wanting to focus on dialogue with Moscow before detailing possible sanctions.

Russia has deployed troops on its border with Ukraine, but the Kremlin denies planning another invasion of the country.

In Strasbourg, Daria Navalnaya, the daughter of jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, urged EU governments to confront the aggression of president Putin, and crack down on Europe's facilitators of corruption in Russia.

Navalnaya also called for EU countries to reject the "cynicism" of pragmatic relations with Moscow.

"The pacification of dictators and tyrants never works," she said when accepting the European parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought on behalf of her father.

Some EU countries, particularly the Baltics and Poland, have been worried about US president Joe Biden discussing Putin's demands for binding security guarantees. that would prevent Nato from adding new members in the East. on their phone call earlier this month.

Boosters, energy

EU leaders will also discuss booster vaccination shots, and coordinating measures as the new Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus takes a hold in Europe.

Italy has said it will also require a PCR test from EU travellers before entering the country, even if they are vaccinated.

The leaders will also talk about rising energy prices - with some member states, such as Poland and Spain, arguing that it merits an overhaul of the world's largest carbon market, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and calling for trading limits.

Other countries, like Hungary, linked energy price-hikes to the commission's green policy proposals.

A third group of countries argue that governments have enough instruments to handle the rising prices at national level without EU action.

The commission is expected to propose a system of EU countries jointly buying gas to form strategic reserves.

EU leaders are also expected to give guidance on the forthcoming "strategic compass", a common strategic vision, which will include stating that the "EU will take more responsibility for its own security and defence", and " increase its capacity to act autonomously".

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