Brussels defends sanctions, while pledging more Ukraine financial aid

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The EU's high representative for foreign affairs speaks to reporters in Brussels on Monday 18 July 2022.

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EU foreign affairs ministers have agreed to give another €500 million to Ukraine, providing Kyiv with more firepower to stop the Russian offensive.

Meanwhile, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged member states not to waiver over sanctions against Moscow, after some European leaders, including Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, said the measures taken against Moscow were hurting the EU more than Russia.

“I am sure Putin is counting on democratic fatigue, I am sure. No European society can afford fatigue,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

“European societies and European Union members states’ governments have to continue standing behind the decisions they have taken,” he added. “They took the decisions on the restricted measures on the Russian economy and they have to stick to it.”

However, as Europe’s energy crisis persists and prices continue to skyrocket, some governments are becoming reluctant to spend more money to help Kyiv.

But, talking to Euronews, the EU’s ambassador to Ukraine, Matti Maasikas, explained that the money is needed now more than ever, as the war is undermining the country’s economy.

“Ukraine quotes its monthly budget gap as standing at €5 billion. International financial assistance easing coming from different sources it’s not enough yet to bridge that gap,” Maasikas said. 

“And I can only express my hope that the discussions amongst the EU member states on the €9 billion macro-financial assistance will proceed more quickly,” he continued.

Brussels has already decided to support Ukraine with €9 billion, with the first billion likely to be handed over this month, though an agreement is yet to be reached for disbursement of the remaining money. 

EU foreign affairs ministers also discussed a proposal to ban gold imports from Russia as part of a new round of sanctions which aims to fine-tune the six packages of measures approved previously.

Gold makes up Moscow’s largest export industry behind energy. 

According to Borrell, it is essential for the bloc to remain united and believe that the sanctions against Moscow will work, even if the effects do not immediately appear on the battlefield. 

“Ukraine needs more arms,” he said. “We will provide them. The war will continue.”

Borrell also challenged critics who have claimed that measures on anything from oil sanctions to monetary measures were counterproductive and hurting the EU more than Russia itself.

“There is a big debate about are the sanctions effective? Are the sanctions affecting us more than Russia,” Borrell said. ”Some European leaders have been saying that the sanctions were an error, were a mistake.”

“They don’t have eyes? They don’t look to the graphs? They don’t consider figures,” he said, pointing to economic figures showing that the impact on Russia was bigger than on the EU.

Last week nationalist Hungarian PM Orban claimed the EU had not only shot itself in the foot but also in the lungs with the six packages of sanctions.

The EU is struggling with the circumstances because the imposition of sanctions against Russia comes at a time of surging inflation, runaway energy and food costs, alongside the continuing impact of the pandemic. ,

All of which have already dampened the EU’s economic outlook.

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