Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The leaders of the European Union’s 27 member states agreed today to continue adding to the sanctions on Russia, while pledging at the same time to up their military support for Ukraine.
According to High Representative Josep Borrell, the EU leaders are to conclude their two-day summit in Versailles near Paris by agreeing to increase the bloc’s military aid fund for Ukraine by an additional 500 million euro.
Having made the proposal “to double our contribution”, Borrell said he was “sure” that the leaders would approve it. “And it is going to be done immediately. Now it flows quickly.”
The leaders reportedly also agreed on a new set of sanctions, as well as having future sanctions at the ready in case Russia’s President Vladimir Putin escalates his invasion of Ukraine further.
Future sanctions could include cutting off all Russian and Belarusian banks from SWIFT, the international banking payment system. So far, only three major Russian banks have been excluded from use of the facility.
“We should be able to define the financial sanctions in a wider context”, Belgium’s Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, said. “Some banks have been cut from SWIFT and we could add some. We should have some strategic patience — a few weeks, to see how they bite. At a certain point, it will weaken Russia”, he declared.
Leaders such as Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, expressed confidence that the threat of increased sanctions could put sufficient pressure on Moscow to obtain a cease-fire agreement between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
One issue that the new sanctions are unlikely to touch upon concerns the fossil fuel trade between the EU and Russia. While the European Commission is working hard and fast on reducing the EU’s dependence on Russian gas and oil, diplomats close to the summit talks revealed that a total embargo, similar to the one imposed by Washington this week, remains off the table as far as Europe is concerned.