Europe's week: Sanctions, summits and nuclear threats take centre stage

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By Stefan Grobe
A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile being launched from an airfield during military drills on Feb. 19, 2022,.
A Russian Yars intercontinental ballistic missile being launched from an airfield during military drills on Feb. 19, 2022,.   -   Copyright  AP/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

State of the Union is our weekly show from where Euronews brings you the top stories from around Europe.

This week, attempts to bring Russia to its knees economically suffered a setback.

The OPEC Plus oil cartel, driven by Saudi Arabia and Russia, agreed to a production cut of two million barrels a day to raise prices, countering efforts by the United States and Europe to squeeze the enormous revenue that Moscow reaps from the sale of crude oil.

The decision came as the EU cobbled together its latest package of sanctions against Russia over the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces.

European Political Community holds inaugural meeting

Convening for the first time in Prague on Thursday, the European Political Community brought together all 27 members of the EU, and other European countries such as Norway, the United Kingdom, Turkey and Ukraine. 

The new forum is part of French President Emmanuel Macron's long-standing quest to forge a united Europe of independent strength. Whether the community will live up to that ambition remains to be seen.

The leaders are aiming to address challenges including Russia, which has recently multiplied its threat to use nuclear weapons.

"This is not the first time Putin has resorted to such a threat," said Annalena Baerbock, German Foreign Minister.

"It is irresponsible. We have to take it seriously, just as we take everything seriously. But it is also, and we know this from the 200-plus days of this brutal war of aggression, an attempt to blackmail us."

Mariana Budjeryn, senior research associate and nuclear security specialist at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Centre told Euronews the same thing -- that the West should take the Russian president's nuclear threats seriously.

"The threats that we heard emanating from him go well beyond what we understood Russian nuclear doctrine to have been with the permissible use of nuclear weapons," said Budjeryn. "And so, I think it is something we should pay very, very close attention to.

New EU sanctions

Fresh sanctions against Russia were also approved by the EU on Thursday, including a price cap on the maritime trade of Russian oil. They came in direct response to Russia's illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions last week.

The price cap on oil was agreed upon in principle by the G7 and Brussels in early September.

They now intend to forbid their insurance and shipping firms from providing services to Russian companies that sell oil at a price that exceeds the agreed-upon cap.

Commercial oil tankers also need insurance to cover the costs of incidents beyond their control, such as delays, damage to supplies, theft, or even war.

The latest sanctions also introduce new exports and imports ban, as well as a brand-new provision that prevents EU nationals from sitting on governing boards of Russia's state-owned companies.

New individuals and entities accused of undermining Ukraine's territorial sovereignty have been added to the extensive blacklist.

Fossil fuels are Russia's main source of revenue and makeup 45% of the country's federal budget.

EU leaders discuss gas cap

EU countries also gathered to discuss a possible price cap on gas imports and transactions at an informal meeting in Prague on Friday.

A letter penned by von der Leyen on Wednesday served as basis for discussions, after she suggested a new set of emergency measures to tame the skyrocketing electricity bills that households and companies are facing, which are strongly driven by gas prices.

While no formal decision was made, there are some ideas on the table that have gained consensus, such as a joint procurement scheme to buy energy next year.

"One thing is very clear, there is broad support that, next spring, at the end of the winter, when our storages will be depleted, it is of paramount importance that we have a joint purchasing procurement of gas so that we avoid to bite each other and that we have collective bargaining power," the European Commission president said on Friday.

Leaders will meet again in two weeks in Brussels, where they aim to reach an agreement on the best way to reform the energy market in order to curb increasing bills.