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Council Summit: Here's what EU leaders decided over energy, defence and the food crisis

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By Alice Tidey
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French President Emmanuel Macron (C), EU Council President Charles Michel (L) and Italian Premier Mario Draghi talk at a Council summit in Brussels, May 30, 2022.
French President Emmanuel Macron (C), EU Council President Charles Michel (L) and Italian Premier Mario Draghi talk at a Council summit in Brussels, May 30, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Olivier Matthys

A two-day special summit of European Union leaders concluded on Tuesday afternoon with the ban on Russian oil remaining the big main takeaway.

It took 26 days for member states to come to a compromise on the sixth round of sanctions targeting Moscow with the final product not as broad as initially envisioned -- Hungary and other landlocked countries secured a carve-out in order to continue importing Russian oil via pipeline for at least 18 months. 

But the embargo should still result in imports of Russian crude oil being cut by up to 90% by the end of the year -- Germany and Poland have said they too will wean themselves off Russian oil by the end of the year despite their pipeline connections -- and is thus expected to deliver a crushing blow to the Russian economy and ability to finance its war in Ukraine.

Tuesday saw leaders discuss the consequences of the war on global food supplies and energy markets. 

The Council called on member states to accelerate work on solidarity lanes to export wheat and other grains out of Ukraine. It called on the Commission to explore ways to curb rising energy prices by introducing temporary import price caps with the help of international partners.

Leaders also pledged to strengthen cooperation and coordination when it comes to defence spending and procurement.

Here's how the day unfolded:

05.31.2022
17:31

That's it from us. Have a good evening!

05.31.2022
17:09

Summit conclusions on energy

The Council calls for:

  • "as a short term priority", further diversifying supply sources and routes by using the EU Energy Purchase Platform, exploring "with our international partners ways to curb rising energy prices, including the feasibility of introducing temporary import price caps where appropriate";
  • an acceleration in the deployment of renewables  which will "require immediate speeding up permit-granting procedures";
  • improving energy efficiency;
  • "completing and improving the interconnection of European gas and electricity networks by investing in and completing infrastructure for existing new projects" for LNG and hydrogen as well as for renewable production capacity;
  • an improvement in the bloc's preparedness to possible major supply disruptions by agreeing on "bilateral solidarity agreements and a coordinated European contingency plan".
05.31.2022
17:00

Summit conclusions on security and defence

  • EU to "resolutely" implement the Strategic Compass, "reinforce its partnerships, enhance its resilience and increase its security and defence capacity" through more and better investments, focusing on identified strategic shortfalls";
  • The European Council called on the Council to examine several issues including:
    ​ "as a matter of urgency, measures to coordinate very short=term defence procurement needs" to replenish stocks and a "short-term tool to reinforce European defence industrial capabilities through voluntary joint procurement";

    "the development of an EU defence strategic programming, procurement and coordination capability, in complementarity with NATO";

    "further measures to map the current and necessary additional manufacturing capabilities and to reinforce the capacity and resilience of the European defence technology and industrial sector.
05.31.2022
16:51

Summit conclusions on food security

The Council:

  • "invites Member States to accelerate work on "Solidarity Lanes"" and to "facilitate food exports from Ukraine via different routes and EU ports;
  • "calls for effective international coordination to ensure a comprehensive global food security response" and "supports" the UN Global Crisis response Group, the upcoming G7 initiative establishing a Global Alliance for Food Security as well as other EU and multilateral actions;
  • "invites the Commission to explore the possibility of mobilising reserves from the European Development Fund to support the most affected partner countries".
05.31.2022
16:41

Germany phasing out coal by year-end: Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters that Berlin has decided to phase out coal by the end of the year and that as a direct consequennce of Russia's attack on Ukraine, it also aims to be independent on Russian oil and gas.

Germany, which receives most of its imported Russian oil via pipeline could continue to get Russian supply under the temporary oil ban exemption for pipeline oil, but it has pledged to wean itself off completely by the end of the year as well. 

Scholz said that Germany is setting up LGN terminals in the North Sea and Baltic Sea to receive gas imports from alternative sources and that the required ships have been ordered. 

"This has to happen quickly," he said, noting that "other things will take a bit longer".

But he highlighted neighboring countries will benefit as they will be linked to Germany's grid. 

05.31.2022
16:29

Macron hails 'historic' sanction package

The French President called the sixth round of sanctions against Russia "historic."

"Two months ago no one thought sanctions on Russian oil were possible. And many of the leaders were in front of you saying: we will never touch oil and gas, that's for sure," he said.

On possible next rounds of sanctions and whether a ban on Russian gas could be implemented, he said: "I don't think we should rule anything out for the coming weeks. Everything depends on the situation on the ground. I think we should not exclude anything".

05.31.2022
16:23

Here are the conclusions:

I'll be breaking them down in coming posts but for those who don't want to wait: 

05.31.2022
16:12

'Severe food crisis' is Russia's fault: VDL

Asked to comment on Russia's assertion that the food crisis is because of Western sanctions Russia, von der Leyen said that "the fact that there is  severe food crisis developing is only the fault of Russia's unjustified war."

She emphasised that Russia is "not only blocking the export of Ukrainian wheat, it is bombarding warehouses where wheat is stored deliberately" as well as "mining the fields". 

She also highlighted that the EU has "no sanctions on food and agricultural products" and that third countries have access "to all fertilizers from Russia."

"It's complete misinformation from Russia's side," she said. 

05.31.2022
16:06

Member states have already cut imports of Russian oil: VDL

The Commission President refuted criticism that the oil ban allows member states to continue getting most of their oil needs from Russia until the end of the year, stressing that the sanctions package plans for a "wind-down period till the end of the year".

She stressed that there has been a "clear reduction of (Russian) oil already".

She noted that Germany was getting 35% of its oil imports from Russia at the beginning of the year and that it has now gone down to 12%.

05.31.2022
15:54

EU gas storage facility at 41% capacity: VDL

The head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, praised the Russian oil ban, which "comes at a time when we see Russia has disrupted supplies to, by now, five member states" referring to Bulgaria, Poland, Finland as well as companies in the Netherlands and Denmark.

She said the RePower EU plan should provide a clear roadmap to get rid of Russian fossil fuel dependencies and mentioned that EU gas storage "is already filled at 41%" which is "5% higher than it was the case last year at the same date."

Earlier this month, the Council and Parliament approved a draft law that stated that member states' gas storage capacities must be filled to 80% before the start of the coming winter.