Shadow of Vladimir Putin It polluted the last EU summit of the year in Brussels this Thursday. The hands of the Russian President are behind the two major crises that monopolize the agenda of the heads of state and government of the 27 countries. on the one hand, The situation in Ukraine is becoming increasingly unstable Before Threat of Moscow invasion. For the other, Unstoppable rise in natural gas prices, Many partners—especially Poland and the Baltic States—attribute Abuse by Russian giant Gazprom.
As a prelude to the summit, European leaders participated in meetings with the Eastern Partnership countries this Thursday: Ukraine itself, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan.The chair in Belarus is empty because the dictator Alexander Lukashenko He decided to sever ties with the European Union and bet all his chips on Moscow. Faced with interference, pressure and “A cynical geopolitical game” The Kremlin. Especially the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
In the European Council, all eyes are on the new German Chancellor, Olaf Schultz, And how far he can fill the power vacuum Angela Merkel leaves after 16 years of EU ruleThe Swedes also premiered at the summit Magdalena Anderson, Austria Carl Nehammer And Kirill Petkov, Bulgaria. The Dutch prime minister is on the absent list, Mark Rutte, To participate in the appointment debate of the new coalition government in The Hague.
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The chairman of the government, Pedro Sanchez, Will once again call for urgent measures at the EU level Reduce electricity bills. Sanchez will also ask his partner Avoid unilateral restrictions on internal boundaries In response to omicron variants, and accelerate the donation of vaccines to countries in Africa and Latin America. A new wave of Covid-19 Its impact on economic recovery is another big issue on the agenda of the European Council.
The EU leaders noted with great concern that Russia’s massive build-up of troops on the eastern border of Ukraine, and Moscow’s attempts to “destabilize” the country from within, in order to Give up to stay away from the Russian tracks and move closer to the West. Full military deploymentPutin called on Moscow to give “security guarantees”: a firm promise that NATO will never accept the entry of Ukraine or Georgia.
During the Brussels summit, European leaders will reiterate their warning to Moscow in recent days: armed intervention in Ukraine is “Absolute red line“And there will be one”High economic cost“For the Kremlin. This firm message before Putin has also been coordinated by NATO, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Western allies still believe in the theory of deterrence, Because simply announcing strong sanctions is enough to make the Russian president think twice and stop his plan.
“Our response to any new aggression may take the form of a drastic expansion and expansion of existing (economic) sanctions. Of course, we are willing to adopt Unprecedented additional measures Have serious consequences for Russia“This Wednesday, the chairman of the committee said, Ursula von DelaneNonetheless, 27 people refused to elaborate on the content of these retaliations.
At the same time, whether it is Schultz or the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, They proposed that Putin return to the negotiating table and engage in direct dialogue with Ukraine.It will be about Search the so-called Normandy format, In which Paris and Berlin act as intermediaries between the two parties. “Most importantly, I ask Russia to ease tensions, resort to diplomatic channels and respect its international commitments. The conflict must be resolved peacefully,” Von der Lein said.
The rise of natural gas and electricity
In addition to destabilizing actions in Ukraine, European leaders are also worried Putin’s role in rising oil prices, Which in turn is the main factor explaining the rise in electricity bills. 40% of the natural gas consumed by the European Union is imported from Russia. Although Gazprom has fulfilled all its European contracts so far, it has not increased supply due to the current price crisis. Poland has asked Brussels to file a monopoly abuse against GazpromThe community director began to collect information to verify whether a gas supplier was manipulating the market in the current emergency, but no formal procedures have yet been initiated.
This issue will be discussed again at the Brussels summit The role of Beixi No. 2 Natural Gas Pipeline, A project where the Ukrainian crisis and the gas crisis intersect. The goal of this newly constructed infrastructure is to transport Russian natural gas directly to Germany through the Baltic Sea, without passing through Ukraine. Eastern countries, Led by Poland, Condemned Nord Stream 2 ”Increase the Kremlin’s ability to pressure Ukraine and the EU“.
Merkel has always turned a deaf ear to these proposals and continues to advance this project, which is also opposed by the United States.The new one Traffic Light Alliance from Schultz seems to pause to reflect. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Green Annalena Balbok, Said this week that Berlin will not give the green light for the start of natural gas pipelines for the time being because it does not respect the EU’s energy legislation, which requires the separation of suppliers and network managers. Some statements in turn have led to further increases in natural gas prices.
otherwise, The heads of state and government will not approve any new measures at the European level As Sanchez claims, stop the light from rising. Internal divisions among member states hinder any progress. Claims by Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Romania Decoupling the price of natural gas from electricityOn the other hand, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, the Baltic countries, and the Nordic countries consider the increase to be temporary, and therefore refuse any intervention at the European level and choose purely national measures.
Moncloa admits The debate is “very complicated” and progress is “slow”, But he insisted that “more and more countries have signed up for Spanish papers.”In addition, Brussels has also approved some proposals of the Sanchez Executive Committee, such as initiating a Joint gas purchase mechanism. But the fact is that the committee’s plan has many restrictions and fine print This is useless in practice.
European leaders Will solve the electricity price problem again in the spring of 2022, Once the regulator releases the final report on whether it is necessary to reform the European electricity market. Warning: Your preliminary conclusion is negative.
The threat of omicron
The first item on the summit’s agenda is again Covid-19. The virulence of the new wave of infections sweeping the European Union and the threat of new omicron variants have forced most member states to adopt new restrictive measures.Von Delane Already warned about what omicron will become the main strain in Europe As early as mid-JanuaryThe agreement between the heads of state and government is to expedite vaccination and booster injections to the entire adult population.If it is necessary to adapt the vaccine to omicron, the new dose They will be ready in March or April, all Europeans will be enough, Insist on the president.
Secondly, European leaders will discuss how to strengthen coordination and avoid unilateral measures again causing border chaos. Countries such as Italy, Portugal, Ireland or Greece have decided to require negative PCR testing For all European travelers, even if they are vaccinated. At the opposite extreme, Spain is committed to taking full advantage of Covid passports and avoiding new border closures. Finally, the European Council will issue a new call to accelerate the donation of vaccines to the poorest countries, especially African countries. Its vaccination rate barely reached 7%.
The heads of state and government will also deal with the worsening economic impact of this new pandemic, which occurs when the recovery of most countries begins to reach cruising speed.European leaders are also worried Eurozone inflation rate soared to 4.9% in November, The record since the creation of the single currency. The President of the European Central Bank is expected to attend this debate, Christina Lagarde.