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State of the Union: Ukraine grain deal halted as Latin America comes to Brussels

Leaders from the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Brussels this week for their first meeting in eight years.
Leaders from the EU, Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in Brussels this week for their first meeting in eight years. Copyright Francois Walschaerts/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Francois Walschaerts/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Stefan Grobe
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The long-term viability of the agreement between Kyiv and Moscow had been up in the air for some time now.

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This week was a perfect example of how actions in war can have unintended consequences.

After Ukraine knocked out a section of the Kerch bridge that forms the only link between Crimea and mainland Russia, Moscow announced it was pulling out of a year-old deal keeping grain flowing to the rest of the world from the embattled country.

Under the agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, Kyiv was allowed to export grain by ship across the Black Sea.

It was a big relief for developing countries that had been hit by soaring food prices.

But the latest developments put the scheme in acute danger - with potentially devastating consequences for people around the world.

"The fact that, once again, Ukrainian grain cannot go out of Ukraine, it means that hundreds of thousands of people around the world will be deprived of basic food," Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs said.

"I think this deserves some action at the level of the General Assembly of the United Nations. 

"We cannot sit and just complain. This is using hunger as a weapon.”

However, the Kremlin’s refusal to renew the grain deal was somewhat expected.

It helped to calm markets that Turkey said it would intensify diplomatic efforts to find a solution.

Europe reunites with Latin America

At the same time, the European Union was hosting a region that had seen food prices go up sharply as a result of the war in Ukraine: Latin America and the Caribbean.

At the first summit of the two continents in eight years in Brussels this week, both sides celebrated the event as a kind of family reunion after a long period of estrangement – despite numerous political differences.

But the symbolism of having 60 countries rubbing shoulders with each other and underlining common values was not a small feat, as European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, explained.

"It was an excellent summit and it really felt like a new beginning for old friends," she said. 

"We need each other. These are times of great geopolitical change, and like-minded friends like us need to stand together."

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"What we have to seek to build is not only a relationship between states, but a relationship between civilisations," Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines added.

For Anna Ayuso, a senior research fellow at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, the summit was a well-timed fresh start.

"We can say that this is a new beginning for something that happened (before) and it's not exactly only a picture of a reunion," she told Euronews.

"The summit is the moment when everybody puts the cards on the table, and we can see in which questions we can have agreements and in which others we have differences, and the differences prevail."

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Summer heats up in the south

What Europe was most concerned by this week – particularly in the southern half of the continent, was the mega heatwave that brought temperatures of more than 40 degrees.

Across Mediterranean countries, locals and tourists tried their best to keep cool.

In Greece, the heatwave had devastating consequences as wildfires destroyed thousands of hectares in a short period of time.

The government in Athens activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, triggering the deployment of Canadair planes from France and Italy and firefighting units from Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

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An example of active European solidarity – and it will likely be needed more and more often, as the United Nations warned the world to get ready to face increasingly intense heatwaves

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