European Council reinforces transatlantic cooperation in support of Ukraine

European Council reinforces transatlantic cooperation in support of Ukraine

EU leaders met US President Joe Biden on Thursday to discuss support for Ukraine and the strengthening of transatlantic cooperation, and were joined by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, via video conference.

The main results of the first day of the European Council meeting are summarized here. The leaders condemned in the strongest possible terms “Russia's unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine”.

In a joint statement, European Commission President von der Leyen and US President Biden stated that the EU and the US “stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who are bravely defending their homeland, and we call on Russia to end the brutal onslaught against its neighbour.  We are united in our support of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The joint statement includes an annex on transatlantic cooperation and support for Ukraine.

In its conclusions, the European Council demands that Russia must “immediately stop its military aggression in the territory of Ukraine, immediately and unconditionally withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders”.

The leaders also urged Russia to urgently guarantee safe passage to civilians trapped in war zones, immediately release all hostages, provide uninterrupted humanitarian access and establish humanitarian corridors.

On Ukraine’s application for EU membership, the European Council reaffirmed the Versailles Declaration from its previous informal meeting (11 March), “acknowledging the European aspirations and the European choice of Ukraine, as stated in the Association Agreement”. Without giving a date, it reiterated its invitation to the Commission to submit its opinion “in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Treaties”.

On the rebuilding of Ukraine, the Council stated that it is committed to provide support to Ukraine for “its immediate needs and, once the Russian onslaught has ceased, for the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine”.

To that end, the European Council agreed to develop a Ukraine Solidarity Trust Fund and calls for an international conference to be organised in due time to raise funding under the new Fund.

On sanctions against Russia, the European Council did not decide on new sanctions, such as stopping the import of natural gas from Russia, and referred to the already adopted sanctions “that are having a massive impact on Russia and Belarus”.  The EU-US joint statement says that “efforts should be stepped up to coordinate responses against sanctions evasion”.

The Council stated that it “remains ready to close loopholes and target actual and possible circumvention as well as to move quickly with further coordinated robust sanctions on Russia and Belarus to effectively thwart Russian abilities to continue the aggression.”

In another joint statement on Friday morning on European Energy Security, the European Commission and the US agreed on a number of actions to reduce Europe's dependency on Russian energy. “The EU confirmed its objective to reach independence from Russian fossil fuels well before the end of the decade.”

The US and the EU are also committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, achieving the objective of net zero emissions by 2050, and keeping a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit on temperature rise within reach, including through a rapid clean energy transition, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.

“These policies and technologies will also contribute to making the EU independent from Russian fossil fuels." The European Commission will work with EU Member States and market operators to pool demand through a newly established EU Energy platform for additional volumes between April and October 2022.

The Brussels Times

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