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at Versailles, the European Union takes a step towards more sovereignty

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The Heads of State and Government of the European Union meeting in Versailles have decided to double military aid to Ukraine to bring it to one billion euros. They ruled out the possibility of a rapid accession of this country to the Union, but affirmed that it “was part of the European family”.

The Commission should soon decide on whether it grants Ukraine the status of candidate for the Union. And, given the tone of the remarks made at Versailles, it seems very likely that this status will be recognized. “We will support Ukraine as long as the war lasts. The way to Europe is open to them”declared Emmanuel Macron.

The leaders of the 27 also assured that a new package of massive sanctions will be adopted quickly if Russia does not cease its military operations in Ukraine. “Nothing is taboo, we will do whatever seems effective to us. Our objective is to reach a ceasefire followed by the rapid withdrawal of Russian troops.continued the French president.

Reduce European dependence on Russian gas

The challenge of this summit was to agree on a common position in the new context created by the war in Ukraine. The Europeans’ response can be broken down into three parts. The first concerns energy: the EU wants to reduce its dependence on Russia and confirms its objective of reducing its purchases of Russian gas by two thirds by the end of the year.

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→ ANALYSIS. War in Ukraine: do without Russian gas, the European puzzle

“This objective can be achieved by diversifying our supplies”, assured the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The Commission is already at work to find replacement volumes of gas in other supplier countries. The Commission intends to require member countries to fill their storage capacities to at least 80% each summer, “in order to protect the European Union from the vagaries of the market and speculation”.

It also intends to accelerate the development of a hydrogen production sector in Europe. This gas appears to be the best means of storing energy produced from renewable sources.

European defense industry set to grow

The Europeans also want to coordinate to strengthen their defense industry. The Commission must produce by mid-May an analysis of Europe’s shortcomings in this area, in order to support the emergence of joint projects with a view to filling them quickly. These could be programs for the production of drones, the strengthening of Europe in terms of space intelligence or cyber defence.

→ HISTORY. War in Ukraine: what were the previous “oil shocks”?

Finally, the Europeans want to cushion the economic shock caused by this war and the sanctions against Russia. “Europe has the means to impose sanctions while protecting us from its consequences”, said Emmanuel Macron. He acknowledged that “governments do not have the possibility of absorbing all the consequences of inflation”. “Defending democracy has a cost and requires reconsidering certain dogmas”noted the French president.

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“Discuss the objectives before talking about the means”

No announcement has been made on how European states will fund this new spending. France wants the suspension of the Stability Pact rules to be extended beyond 2022, at least for another year. It also pleads for the European Union to proceed with a new joint loan, beyond the current recovery plan adopted last year, in the amount of 750 billion euros. But these subjects are for the moment left aside. “We must first agree on our objectives, before discussing the means of achieving them”explained Emmanuel Macron.

If there is indeed one objective that was reaffirmed throughout the final press conference of this Council of Versailles, it is that of moving towards a European Union that would be more in control of its destiny: “Everyone now understands that sovereignty is an imperative”summed up Emmanuel Macron.

The war launched by Russia against Ukraine functions as an accelerator. The European Union had already become aware, at the time of the Covid epidemic, of its industrial weaknesses in terms of health. It is now doing so in the field of defense and energy.

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