EU agrees new sanctions against Russia at year-end summit – DW – 12/15/2022

European Union leaders ended the year as they began, with a meeting focused on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

At a European Council summit in Brussels on Thursday, the latest developments in the war and ways to help Ukraine get through this winter were high on the agenda.

New sanctions on Moscow have been approved despite disagreements over facilitating the export of Russian agricultural products and fertilizers through European ports. EU leaders also reached an agreement on a minimum tax of 15% for large multinational companies.

EU leaders meet for the final summit of a turbulent year

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Ninth round of EU sanctions

An agreement has been reached on a new sanctions package against Russia that will be confirmed in writing on Friday.

Not all details were disclosed, but the sanctions are expected to include travel bans and asset freezes on around 200 more Russian civil servants and military officials, as the European Commission proposed last week.

The bloc is also likely to ban the delivery of drone engines to both Russia and Iran, which has been accused of providing “kamikaze” drones for deployment against Ukrainian civilian targets.

Pleas by some countries including the Netherlands and Belgium to be exempted from previous sanctions on Russian fertilizer imports were discussed in meetings on the sidelines after threatening to delay the new sanctions.

Poland and some Baltic states worried that relaxing them would allow Russian oligarchs who own fertilizer businesses to circumvent EU sanctions against them.

“Ambassadors agreed in principle on a sanctions package against Russia as part of the EU’s continued support for Ukraine,” the Czech EU presidency tweeted.

Minimum tax rate deal approved despite opposition

The bloc also gave its go-ahead to join the international plan, with almost 140 member countries, to set a minimum tax rate of 15% for multinational companies.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it a rare moment of satisfaction. The agreement is intended to prevent countries from cutting taxes to attract businesses.

The plan had met with opposition from Poland.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused the EU of blackmailing his country by linking the tax plan to an 18 billion euro ($19 billion) financial aid package for Ukraine.

“Combining aid to Ukraine with such far-flung issues that have nothing to do with aid like corporate tax is unnecessary, it is a mistake and an attempt at blackmail,” Morawiecki said.

The EU faces a race for subsidies with the US.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday the EU would have to move faster to avoid the threat to its industry from planned US subsidies.

Arriving at the EU summit in Brussels, Macron said the leaders would discuss their response to US President Joe Biden’s Reduced Inflation Act.

“To maintain fair competition,” Macron said, Europe must simplify its own subsidy rules faster “to respond, to be the equivalent of what the Americans have done.”

The $430 billion law, which gives consumers tax credits for US-produced electric vehicles and other green products, has raised fears it could hurt EU-based companies and tempt companies to move to the United States.

Brussels previously warned that the subsidies could violate World Trade Organization rules. But, with US President Joe Biden refusing to change course beyond some promised “tweaks”.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed ahead of the summit to relax state aid rules on renewable energy and clean technology to help the bloc compete with the US.

On Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country is the EU’s top auto exporter, said Europe was united in the dispute but should resolve it through talks “rather than a major conflict.”

Corruption in the European Parliament

Also casting a shadow over the summit was the corruption scandal in the EU parliament.

Days before the meeting of EU leaders, Belgian prosecutors charged Eva Kaili, a Greek member of the European Parliament, and three others with allegedly accepting bribes from Qatar in exchange for promoting pro-Gulf state policies.

The European Union first needs to know all the relevant facts and know all the people involved in an ongoing corruption investigation by Belgian authorities with ties to Qatar, French President Emmanuel Macron has said.

Macron plans to return to Qatar on Sunday to watch France play Argentina in the World Cup final.

EU corruption scandal: Eva Kaili’s pre-trial hearing delayed

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ab, it/it (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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