EIB approves €4 billion credit line to support Ukrainian refugees in all EU countries
On 18 May, the Board of Directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB) approved a €4 billion credit line (or programme loan) to help national authorities, cities, regions and local communities in all EU Member States address urgent investment needs and help welcome and integrate people fleeing the war against Ukraine.
The EIB pledged these funds back in April, at ‘Stand Up for Ukraine’, a global pledging campaign for Ukraine and its refugees, but board approval was required. The EU and Canada then raised €9.1, including €4 billion from the EIB and €1 billion from the European Commission.
The EIB credit line will help to provide this support by making financing available to the development of key infrastructure and services for refugees and host communities, such as housing, schools, hospitals and access to jobs. The financing can also cover eligible operational expenditures related to the supply of equipment, facilities and services for the integration of war refugees.
This financial package will be complemented by EIB advisory support thanks to the EMBRACE Advisory Platform, a new initiative by the EIB and the European Commission.
“All EU Member States can make use of this funding opportunity and bespoke advisory for projects that help refugees start a new life in their host countries,” said EIB President Werner Hoyer. “This initiative comes together with the €668 million support we gave in early March to the Government of Ukraine to cover their urgent liquidity needs; both are part of our Solidarity Package for Ukraine, which we set up together with the European Commission.”
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Charles Michel at G7 meeting: Ukraine needs more and we are committed to providing more
Support for Ukraine is the focus of discussions at the G7 meeting taking place in Schloss Elmau, Germany, from 26 to 28 June. During these days, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union will work mainly on the global economy, partnerships for developing countries, foreign and security policy, sustainability, food security, multilateralism, and digital transformation.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, highlighted the support that the EU has provided to Ukraine, including €2 billion to provide military equipment. “Ukraine needs more and we are committed to providing more. This comprises more military support, more financial means and more political support. We are also committed to supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction,” said Michel.
“The EU and the G7 share the same goals: bringing Russia’s war machine to a halt, while protecting our economies and those of our partners. The EU will stand by the people of Ukraine for the long haul and will help defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our aim is to strongly defend our common democratic values,” said Michel.
The President added that during the G7 meeting, he would highlight food security – “the Kremlin is using food as a silent weapon of war” – and energy security in the light of the war.
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European Council: Ukraine and Moldova granted EU candidate status
On 23 June, EU leaders meeting in the European Council agreed to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status.
“A historic moment. Today marks a crucial step on your path towards the EU,” wrote European Council President Charles Michel on Twitter. “Congratulations to Zelenskyy and Maia Sandu and the people of Ukraine and Moldova. Our future is together.”
At the same time, the Council decided to recognise the European perspective of Georgia, and, according to Michel, “is ready to grant candidate status once the outstanding priorities are addressed”.
The decision follows the Opinions issued by the European Commission on all three EU accession applications on 17 June.
“I am very pleased with the Leaders’ endorsement of our Opinions,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the press conference following the Council. “Of course, the countries all have homework to do before moving to the next stage of the accession process. But I am convinced that they will all move as swiftly as possible and work as hard as possible to implement the necessary reforms.” She added that the changes needed for the EU accession would primarily benefit the states’ democracies, economies and citizens.
“This decision strengthens us all. It strengthens Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, in the face of Russian imperialism and it strengthens the European Union, because it shows once again to the world that we are united and strong in the face of external threats,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
In their Conclusions adopted on 23 June, EU leaders said:
- The European Council recognises the European perspective of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia. The future of these countries and their citizens lies within the European Union.
- The European Council has decided to grant the status of candidate country to Ukraine and to the Republic of Moldova.
- The Commission is invited to report to the Council on the fulfilment of the conditions specified in the Commission’s opinions on the respective membership applications as part of its regular enlargement package. The Council will decide on further steps once all these conditions are fully met.
- The European Council is ready to grant the status of candidate country to Georgia once the priorities specified in the Commission’s opinion on Georgia’s membership application have been addressed.
- The progress of each country towards the European Union will depend on its own merit in meeting the Copenhagen criteria, taking into consideration the EU’s capacity to absorb new members.
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Georgia and the EU hold annual Human Rights Dialogue
On 22 June in Brussels, the EU and Georgia held the 15th round of the annual Human Rights Dialogue.
Participants exchanged views on the human rights situation in Georgia and on recent developments in the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights since the last dialogue in July 2021.
The Georgian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Teimuraz Gianjalia, and the EU delegation was led by Richard Tibbels, from the European External Action Service. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, also participated in the meeting.
The next EU-Georgia human rights dialogue is planned to take place in Tbilisi in 2023.
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Crimea and the city of Sevastopol: EU extends sanctions over Russia’s illegal annexation by one year
On 20 June, the Council of the European Union extended the sanctions introduced by the EU in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, until 23 June 2023.
The restrictive measures currently in place were first introduced in June 2014. They include prohibitions targeting the imports of products originating from the illegally annexed Crimea or Sevastopol into the EU, and infrastructural or financial investments and tourism services from the illegally annexed Crimea or Sevastopol. Furthermore, the exports of certain goods and technologies to Crimean companies or for use in illegally annexed Crimea in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors or for the prospection, exploration and production of oil, gas and mineral resources are also subject to EU restrictions.
The EU reminds that it does not recognise and continues to condemn the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula as a serious violation of international law. It also condemns in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked and unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, started by Russia on 24 February.
The European Union also says it is committed to help Ukraine exercise its inherent right of self-defence against Russian aggression and build a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future. It also remains committed to continuing to bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
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EU faces a difficult choice – where the pendulum will swing?
European Commission is drawing closer to presenting its opinion on candidate status to Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova – members of the Association Trio. Meanwhile, questions and suggestions are mounting how to proceed in this way to find a “golden mean” amidst the war in Ukraine and highly unpredictable geostrategic context.
The stakes are high and considering all circumstances the European Union (EU) faces a difficult but historical decision. While, it is premature to talk in which direction the scales will swing, it’s evident that either negative or some intermediary decision about on any of the applicant state, will significantly affect their geopolitical future in the short and mid-term perspective. What about Georgia – the sole strategic ally of the West in the South Caucasus, the situation with regard to the status, still remains unclear. While we watch Ukraine as arena of a brutal geopolitical competition between the West and Russia on the European theater, Georgia remains another arena of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West. The absence of war nowadays, doesn’t mean it will not be unleashed tomorrow, if Russia finds Georgia alienated by the West. Thus, it's safe to say that EU candidate status for Georgia is highly likely to strengthen the EU foothold in the region and have a far-reaching influence on the other states of the region.
Before the pendant conclusion of the European Commission about candidate status for Georgia some opinions are present both in Georgia and outside calling the EU on either refraining from granting the status to Georgia, or suggesting something transitional. These suggestions are largely generated by ongoing domestic political infighting in the country.
The benefits from granting candidate status to Georgia, which considerably outstrips other members of the Association Trio by the pace of fulfillment of the components of the EU Association Agreement appeared to be far more tangible, than conditional gains in case of refusal.
Let's put the questions specifically and directly. Whether it’s a prudent step to hold Georgia back from the candidate status, as some groups argue, and detach it somehow from the Association Trio in this truly extraordinary situation?
What will the EU gain and what will it lose if decides to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and say "NO" to Georgia, or give it something different? Hardly this “cold shower” from the EU would contribute to political stability in Georgia, which is apparently important for the EU in this turbulent geopolitical environment. Georgia’s opposition groups and their supporters are highly likely to use this “NO” to embark on mass anti-governmental protests and Georgia is expected to plunge into another cycle of confrontation, turbulence, and uncertainty, with the ensuing consequences. It’s hard to imagine that the EU would be satisfied with such state of affairs in its key partner in the region.
Refusal to grant Georgia candidate status under any plausible pretext, can significantly increase not only Euro-skepticism but outright anti-Western sentiments in a sizeable part of Georgian society, providing anti-Western forces with an excellent opportunity to increase their influence and strengthen their stance. Nowadays, they are quite industrious in creating an anti-European atmosphere in society. Will the EU be satisfied with this perspective?
Pinning hope that the refusal to give a candidate’s status will force Georgia’s ruling party to become more malleable to the EU demands looks unconvinced. Quite the contrary, the care for its own political future, will make the current government far more dutybound to implement the EU-recommended reforms. The idea cultivated by some Georgian and foreign pundits and politicians that Georgia will better meet EU standards under the new government after the pre-term elections, looks rather emotional than well-calculated. If consider the balance of political powers in Georgia, as well as composition of the current political landscape, this scenario looks unrealistic.
And, last but not least,the status of the candidate for EU membership is not an act of mercy for Georgia. It will give the country a strong and unequivocal signal from the EU to take the road to justice, peace and security, or be faced, even more than before, with tension and confrontation that would not be in the interests of any party. It’s time for making extraordinary but geopolitically far-sighted decisions.
Zaal Anjaparidze, political analyst, Tbilisi, Georgia