GLOBALink | Czech EU Presidency to focus on consequences of Russia-Ukraine conflict
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told the European Parliament's plenary session on Wednesday that managing the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine conflict will top the list of priorities of the Czech Republic, which took over the rotating six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) on July 1.
Under the slogan "Europe as a task," the Czech Presidency's five priorities are managing the refugee crisis and Ukraine's post-war recovery; energy security; strengthening Europe's defense capabilities and cyberspace security; the strategic resilience of the European economy; and the resilience of democratic institutions.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's Agrarian Policy and Food Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the country's grain harvest is projected to reach 60 million tons this year.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Markiyan Dmytrasevych said Ukraine would have to export between 30 million tons and 40 million tons of grain from this year's harvest to free its storage facilities.
The official said by the end of October, Ukraine will lack capacities for storing 10-15 million tons of grain due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict that damaged storage infrastructure and blocked exports through the Black Sea.
Produced by Xinhua Global Service
EU agrees extra €500 million of military support for Ukraine
The Foreign Council of the European Union reached political agreement for a 7th tranche of military support to Ukraine worth €500 million.
The Council also agreed on an additional assistance measure worth €45 million for the Ukrainian forces being trained by the EU’s military training mission, EUMAM Ukraine. This brings the total military support under the European Peace Facility to €3.6 billion. According to EU High Representative Josep Borrell, the EU’s military, financial, economic and humanitarian support for Ukraine has now reached nearly €50 billion.
Before the Council discussed Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba addressed EU foreign ministers via video conference and briefed them on recent developments on the ground and on Ukraine’s current priorities.
Regarding the creation of an accountability mechanism, EU foreign ministers stressed the importance of preserving the crucial role of the International Criminal Court in international criminal justice and expressed broad support for the establishment of the International Prosecutor’s Office in The Hague as a first step.
Regarding the effectiveness of sanctions, Josep Borrell noted that Russian oil (Urals) sells for US $40 a barrel while Brent sells for US$80. “This means that the Russian oil is being sold at a discount of 50%, and it is being bought by mainly India and China,” said Borrell. “So, it is losing US$40 per barrel. It is a big hit on Russia’s financial stability.”
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EU to disburse first €3 billion of the €18 billion macro-financial support to Ukraine
Today, the European Union will disburse the first €3 billion of the €18 billion macro-financial support agreed in December. This was announced by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
“Helping Ukraine meet its financing needs to face the Russian aggression is both crucial and urgent,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter. “The Commission is acting with utmost speed and determination.”
The aim of this emergency assistance is to provide short-term financial relief, financing Ukraine’s immediate needs, rehabilitation of critical infrastructure and initial support towards sustainable post-war reconstruction, with a view to supporting Ukraine on its path towards European integration. The loans will have a 10-year grace period.
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EU to extend sanctions against Belarus and Iran for supporting Russian war against Ukraine, says von der Leyen
The European Union will extend its sanctions, announced in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine, to those who militarily support Russia’s war, such as Belarus or Iran. This was announced by the Head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at a press conference today following the signing of the Third EU-NATO Joint Declaration on Cooperation.
“The European Union will keep doing everything in its power to support the brave people of Ukraine. We will keep the pressure on the Kremlin for as long as it takes with the biting sanctions regime,” said von der Leyen. “We will be coming forward with new sanctions on Belarus answering Belarus’ role in this Russian war in Ukraine.”
She also confirmed that the EU will continue its “substantial humanitarian economic and Security Assistance to Ukraine as long as it is necessary”.
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EU disburses third and final €500 million tranche of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine
On 14 December, the European Commission disbursed the third and final tranche of €500 million under the exceptional €5 billion macro-financial assistance (MFA) operation for Ukraine. The payment is part of a package of MFA measures announced by the Commission on 18 May and endorsed by the European Council on 23-24 June 2022.
With this payment, the total amount of macro-financial assistance to Ukraine since the start of the war in Russia has reached €7.2 billion. The funds have been made available to Ukraine in the form of highly concessional loans with longer maturities than in a regular MFA.
This disbursement follows a positive assessment by the Commission of Ukraine’s implementation of seven structural policy measures agreed in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on 3 October. The measures aim to strengthen the country’s economic resilience and stability, improve the business climate, strengthen the rule of law and governance and ensure Ukraine’s energy security. Ukraine has also successfully complied with the enhanced reporting requirements of this exceptional MFA.
The Commission has already disbursed to Ukraine €600 million in March and a further €600 million in May this year, followed by €1 billion in August, €2 billion in October, and €2.5 billion in November.
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European Commission proposes ninth package of sanctions against Russia
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced its proposal for a ninth package of sanctions against Russia on Wednesday evening.
The Commission proposes to add almost 200 additional individuals and entities to the EU’s sanctions list. This includes the Russian armed forces, as well as individual officers and defence industrial companies, members of the State Duma and Federation Council, ministers, governors and political parties. “This list covers key figures in Russia’s brutal and deliberate missile strikes against civilians, in the kidnapping of Ukrainian children into Russia, and in the theft of Ukrainian agricultural products,” says the press release by the Commission.
Secondly, the Commission proposes to introduce sanctions against three additional Russian banks, including a full transaction ban on the Russian Regional Development Bank “to further paralyse Putin’s cash machines”.
Third, the Commission suggests imposing new export controls and restrictions, particularly for dual-use goods. This includes key chemicals, nerve agents, electronics and IT components that could be used by the Russian war machine.
Fourth, the sanctions will cut Russia’s access to all sorts of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. The Commission proposes to ban the direct exports of drone engines to Russia and the export to any third countries, such as Iran, which could supply drones to Russia.
Proposed economic measures against the Russian energy and mining sector include a ban on new mining investments in Russia.
Ursula von der Leyen also said that the Commission aims to target the Russian propaganda machine by taking four additional channels off the air and all other distribution platforms.
She added that this package comes on top of the full EU import ban on Russian seaborne oil that came into force this week, as well as the global oil price cap agreed between the G7.
“Russia continues to bring death and devastation to Ukraine,” said von der Leyen. “We stand by Ukraine and we are making Russia pay for its cruelty.”
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