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MaltaToday 1 June 2022 MIDWEEK

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3 maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 1 JUNE 2022 NEWS EUROPE Metsola warns EU could lose face with too much flexibility on Russian sanctions Metsola told a special meeting of the European Council that Europe had to remain in the lead and give Ukraine candidate status for EU membership EUROPEAN Parliament pres- ident Roberta Metsola called on EU leaders yesterday to start planning Europe's "long- term engagement" in the East and Balkans, beyond the im- mediacy of emergency help to Ukraine. Metsola told a special meet- ing of the European Coun- cil, which yesterday was try- ing to get a compromise deal on sanctioning oil shipments from Russia, that Europe had to remain in the lead and give Ukraine candidate status for EU membership. "Candidate status will give Ukraine hope. It will open doors to Ukraine to participate in different programmes and give them space and time for reforms to take place," Metso- la, who made representations on the EP's formal position to the Council. "This is not an overnight solution nor should we give the impression that it is. Candidate status – a real perspective – has the ability to transform coun- tries. We've seen it with many around this table. And we've seen it in Albania and North Macedonia – to whom, by the way, we owe real answers." Metsola said EU membership for Ukraine would give it per- spective, rather than forcing it to look elsewhere. "We are at a point in time when the EU must become a real global power for democracy – flying the flag of liberal democracies in a world that is becoming more complicated and more dangerous." Metsola expressed support for sanctions to disentangle the bloc from Russian energy, referring to Hungarian protes- tations against a ban on refin- ery oil by saying that there was "a limit to how much flexibili- ty we can allow without losing credibility vis-à-vis our pop- ulations and look weak in the face of a Russia." Metsola said member states should increase defence budg- ets and redirect common funds towards enhancing defence capabilities in a way that com- plements NATO efforts. "Our security and defence is fast be- coming an existential question. We need to have the tools to defend ourselves and we can only do that together." She warned that with Ukraine not allowed to toil its fields, Europe was looking at a glob- al multi-year lack of food sup- plies. "Russia knows this and is blackmailing the world while filling up its own silos with sto- len Ukrainian wheat and cere- als. We urgently need to find ways to get grain moving out of Ukraine to where it is most needed in the world. We must increase the 'solidarity lanes' as announced by the European Commission and explore other possibilities to get grain on the move." Metsoal said achieving Green Deal objectives was the best way to wean Europe off "toxic dependencies from unreliable partners." The EP president also sup- ported protection mechanisms against severe price fluctu- ations on gas, and called for common purchasing platforms on gas. "The swift conclusion of negotiations on the gas stor- age requirement shows we can deliver – but we need more. European Parliament president Roberta Metsola addresses the press after the first day of the special European Council meeting Compromise deal on Russian oil sanctions EU leaders reached a compro- mise Monday to impose a par- tial oil embargo on Russia at a summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of sanctions that was blocked by Hungary. The watered-down embargo covers only Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports deliv- ered by pipeline. EU Council President Charles Michel said the agreement cov- ers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia. The new package of sanctions will also include an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals, while Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, will be excluded from SWIFT, the major global system for financial transfers from which the EU previously banned several smaller Russian banks. Three big Russian state- owned broadcasters will be pre- vented from distributing their content in the EU. "We want to stop Russia's war machine," Michel said, lauding what he called a "remarkable achievement." "More than ever it's important to show that we are able to be strong, that we are able to be firm, that we are able to be tough." Michel said the new sanctions, which needed the support of all 27 member countries, will be legally endorsed by Wednesday. The EU had already imposed five previous rounds of sanc- tions on Russia over its war. It has targeted more than 1,000 people individually, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and top government of- ficials as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal sector and more. But the sixth package of meas- ures announced May 4 had been held up by concerns over oil supplies. The impasse em- barrassed the bloc, which was forced to scale down its ambi- tions in a bid to get Hungary on board. When European Com- mission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed the pack- age, the initial aim was to phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined prod- ucts by the end of the year. Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban had made clear he could support the new sanc- tions only if his country's oil supply security was guaranteed. The landlocked country gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and depends on crude that comes through the Sovi- et-era Druzhba pipeline. The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and divisions over the issue exposed the limits of the 27-nation trading bloc's am- bitions. In his 10-minute video ad- dress, Zelenskyy told leaders to end "internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe." He said the sanctions package must "be agreed on, it needs to be effective, including (on) oil," so that Moscow "feels the price for what it is doing against Ukraine" and the rest of Europe. Only then, Zelenskyy said, will Russia be forced to "start seek- ing peace." Hungary led a group of EU countries worried over the impact of the oil ban on their economy, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bul- garia. Hungary relies heavily on Russia for energy an gets 85% of its natural gas from Russia. A commitment by Germany and Poland to phase out Rus- sian oil by the end of the year and to forgo oil from the north- ern part of the Druzhba pipeline will help cut 90% of Russian oil imports.

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