NEWS

EU to phase out Russian energy, offer Ukraine support but no fast-track membership

EU to phase out Russian energy, offer Ukraine support but no fast-track membership

European Union leaders will phase out buying Russian oil, gas and coal as Moscow’s war on Ukraine makes them realise they have to be less dependent on Russia, a draft declaration showed, but they are unlikely to offer Ukraine the fast EU membership it seeks.

Leaders of the 27-nation EU are to meet in Versailles on Thursday and Friday, as Russia’s war against Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, enters its third week despite massive western sanctions.

“Russia’s war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history,” a draft declaration of the 27 EU leaders prepared for the summit said.

“Confronted with growing instability, strategic competition and security threats, we decided to take more responsibility for our security and take further decisive steps towards building our European sovereignty, reducing our dependencies and designing a new growth and investment model for 2030,” it said.

This is a turning point for the EU, because Russia is its biggest energy supplier, providing more than 40% of its gas, more than a quarter of oil imports and almost half of its coal.

The leaders will not set an overall deadline for weaning off Russian energy because dependency differs from country to country, with Germany, Italy, Hungary, Austria among the most deeply reliant on supplies from Moscow.

But the European Commission believes the EU as a whole could reduce its gas imports from Russia by two thirds this year if it diversifies suppliers, invests in renewable energy and improves the energy efficiency of buildings.

After decades of relying on the United States as Europe’s ultimate security backstop, the EU also now wants to sharply increase spending on defence and make Europe more independent when it comes to making microprocessors, pharmaceuticals or food, the draft said.

Officials said EU leaders will offer words of strong support to Ukraine to make clear its future lies with the European Union after Kyiv, which now has an association agreement with the EU, applied for full EU membership shortly after the Russian attack.

But they also said that despite pressure from the Baltic countries and Poland, granting Ukraine any fast-track access to the bloc was unlikely, not least because it would create immediate problems with other applicants like Georgia or Moldova and those already in the pipeline like Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania or Serbia.

“The leaders are unlikely to offer Ukraine candidate status, it is more likely that there will be more cooperation within the association agreement,” one EU official said.

“Offering more would be impossible now because this is a country that is now engulfed by war, partially under Russian occupation, and maybe at some point even completely under occupation,” the official said.

Others noted however, that offering the status of an EU candidate country to Ukraine would offer a clear “European perspective” to Ukraine, giving the country the hope it now needs to fight off the Russian aggression while not making any firm commitments to accept Ukraine in the future.

“I don’t understand why there is a problem with giving them a candidate status. Turkey has had it since 1999 and is nowhere near membership. You can give the candidate status to Ukraine now to show we are with them and then full membership negotiations, like with Turkey, can take forever if there is no political will to enlarge the EU,” a second EU official said. 

[Reuters]