Politics & Economics

The first day of the European Council ends with “unity” on pending issues

April 2024
By Editorial Staff

“We just had the European Council meeting, and we showed that we are united once again”. In his debrief to journalists after the first day of the EU summit, the president of the European Council Charles Michel boasted the sense of awareness among leaders to “put an end to words” when it comes to Ukraine “and deliver more military equipment” to Kyiv in its self-defense against Russia. The Ukrainian government is desperately in need of air defense systems. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated before the meeting that its country will deliver a third Patriot system from its arsenal. “Ukraine requires at least 10 of them”, an official of the European Council told The Watcher Post while leaders were already on their way back to hotels. 

A general appeal was addressed in the room to countries that own Patriot air systems and do not face concrete threats to their national security. Spain and Greece are among this group of countries, “but everybody during the meeting spares themselves to turn to leaders concerned and point fingers against them”, the source claimed. “Common awareness is out of the question, but those States have the last word on their air systems to be delivered”, we were told. Michel highlighted to journalists that EU leaders “are well aware of the challenges on the ground and acknowledge their responsibility”. 

The option to buy air systems outside the EU proposed by some countries was also quickly discarded during the discussion. With the United States military support to Kyiv being at a standstill, countries from the Gulf show up as the most immediate partners to consult to provide the military equipment the EU does not manage to deliver. The crisis in the Middle East does not suggest this option as the wisest one.

In its address to EU leaders, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky stressed the need to convince the United States to break the deadlock for the approval of a 60-billion-dollar military package to Kyiv which Congress struggles to agree on. The clock is ticking, and the US elections are approaching. Ukraine dreads the re-election of the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his reluctance on NATO members’ cooperation. 

EU leaders endorsed the summoning of a “just peace formula conference on Ukraine” to be held in June in Switzerland. “We want to engage with all the international community, especially with the global south”, Michel said.

The conclusions agreed by the European Council on Turkey stress the need to advance the relationship with the country “in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner”. The resumption of the Cyprus settlement talks is a conditio sine qua non to enhance the cooperation, the text reads.

EU Foreign Affairs minister will next Monday discuss new sanctions on Iran. “The aim is to list Iranian companies manufacturing drones and missiles”, journalists were told at the end of the day. “Iran has to be isolated, and this is the reason to engage with other countries in the region and convince them that the Islamic Republic regime is a threat to the whole region”, Michel said. Our source said that in parallel Israel is asked to give up on a possible de-escalation that could exacerbate the revamped diplomatic ties with countries such as Saudi Arabia. “We call all actors in the region to exercise the utmost restraint”, Michel insisted. For the first time since the start of the war in Gaza in October 2023, EU leaders agreed on a text that calls for an “immediate cease-fire” to end the crisis in Gaza. During the last meeting in March EU leaders limited themselves to plead for “an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire”.

The Foreign Affairs topics being sealed off, EU leaders continue their work focusing on competitiveness and input on the enhancement of the single market advanced by the special report delivered by the former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The proposal to devolve national supervision powers on capital to the EU’s securities watchdog ESMA (European Security and Markets Agency) to reduce barriers is a sticking point. Some countries like Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Ireland benefit from the advantageous conditions existing in their national financial markets, an EU diplomat told. The text tabled “is open to the discussion among leaders”, the source further claimed.