Major topics, including easing regulations in the agricultural sector, defense policy and aid for Ukraine, are on the agenda at the meeting of EU leaders taking place in Brussels on March 21-22. The EU Commission has also proposed using the interest from the frozen assets of the Russian central bank to provide military aid for Kyiv. Commentators expect a stormy summit.

Russian frozen assets a bone of contention

The EU summit is a kind of war council, comments La Repubblica:

“The draft document that is to conclude the European Council that begins today even includes an emergency program in the event of an attack. ... But the problem of financing defence remains. Yesterday a proposal was put forward to use the proceeds from the Russian assets frozen in Europe - over three billion - to top up the European Peace Facility (EFF), the fund that has been used to purchase and manufacture weapons for Kyiv in recent months. ... But there are two problems. The threat of a veto by Orbán's Hungary, and the difficulties of the 'neutral' countries (Malta, Austria, Ireland) in accepting this solution.” Claudio Tito


Trade policy also on the agenda

Tariffs on agricultural products from Ukraine will also be discussed at the EU summit, Polityka notes:

“The restrictions on grain imports (only transit is allowed), which violate EU regulations, are still in force in Poland even now that Donald Tusk is in power. But Brussels won't implement any disciplinary measures right now. And the Ukrainians and Poles are currently negotiating solutions similar to the Ukrainian-Romanian agreement. There, a license system for grain trade protects the Romanian market in a way that deviates from the EU's general rules but is tolerated by both Brussels and Kyiv.” Tomasz Bielecki

Pool resources

In a guest commentary in Ouest-France, former EU official Jean-Michel Boullier calls for redoubled efforts towards a common defense policy:


“The conflict in Ukraine is putting democracies at the European and even global level at risk. ... The gradual construction of a Europe of defence is proving more necessary with every passing day. ... It would already make sense for the member states to start thinking about pooling their resources, as was done to good effect with the Covid vaccinations. However, what is still lacking is a strong political will. The possibility raised by the President of the European Commission of appointing a defense commissioner is nevertheless a promising signal.”

A long to-do list

Security must not be defined solely in military terms, warns the Frankfurter Rundschau:

“The hybrid conflict with Russia, for example, makes it clear that cyber security and protection against disinformation campaigns are also important. This includes the enlargement of the European Union. ... Economically, too, the Europeans must continue to reorganize. Investments in chip factories like those here in Germany or production facilities for medicines are just part of this effort. ... But the fight against right-wing populism will also be important for Europeans... Then there's the problems of climate protection and the associated socio-economic restructuring of the economy. So, there's a long list of tasks.” Andreas Schwarzkopf


Today's Europe is completely different

Writing in Expresso, political advisor Henrique Burnay misses a comprehensive debate in Portugal on the future of Europe:

“A Europe that quite rightly fears Russia, that distrusts America, that wants to build up a security and defense industry and that protects itself from the competition of international trade is a completely different Europe than the one we Portuguese joined and have lived in up to now. Even if it is not yet clear what this Europe will look like, we need to discuss it, understand it and, above all, influence it. To do this, however, we first need to know whether we have any ideas as to how Portugal should position itself here. ... We are not having this discussion yet.”

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