BRUSSELS – European Union leaders confirmed their unity, their support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and their determination to take joint action with NATO if there is an invasion of the country by Russia, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said following the conclusion of the informal summit of European Council members on the Ukraine on Thursday.
Speaking before the start of the two-day EU-African Union Summit, also in Brussels, Mitsotakis said that the EU leaders also confirmed their commitment to keep all communication channels with Russia open, whether at collective or bilateral levels. He noted that Greek Foreign Affairs Minister Nikos Dendias is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Friday, and will reiterate Greece’s – and, therefore, the EU’s common – position on Ukraine. The premier added that Greece’s concern for the area also relates to a sizable Greek community in the region.
Referring to the EU-AU Summit, which seeks to strengthen political and economic ties between the two continents, the Greek leader aid that Greece has always had close ties with Africa, being a neighboring country. The opportunities for Greece, “a country without any colonial past, to expand its activity in the African continent, are extremely significant,” he pointed out.
PM Mitsotakis also said he would brief his colleagues on ongoing initiatives to link Africa and Europe in the energy sector, “especially the cable that will link Egypt with Greece and therefore Africa with Europe, in order to transfer very cheap electric energy produced by the sun in Africa to Europe.”
uropean Union leader held a short summit meeting Thursday to push the chances of diplomacy to unlock the standoff over Ukraine and reaffirm their joint determination to impose massive sanctions if Russia invades its neighbor.
The hastily called summit preceded a two-day EU-Africa meeting which brought the 27 EU leaders to Brussels. It did not go into deep detail of what sanctions should be used and how those measures would hit the economies of the member states.
But since unanimity among the 27 is needed to impose sanctions, any show of unity is welcome for the bloc.
“Sanctions require unanimity of the member states,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. “This unity is there in order to use it,” he said, and when asked if it included often recalcitrant Hungary, he added “I said, all.”
The main aim of the meeting was to make sure that even if potential sanctions hurt some member nations more than others, they would not affect the unity of the bloc.
Borrell insisted that if there were to be a Russian aggression against Ukraine, he would immediately call the 27 EU foreign ministers to a special council “to propose the package of sanctions. And I’m sure that even when unanimity is required, the council will approve them.”
The EU has joined the United Kingdom and the United States in insisting that Russia would be hit with massive sanctions if it invades Ukraine.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz joined others in warning about dire consequences, but said that “at the same time we want to use all diplomatic possibilities we have.”
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that “diplomacy has not yet spoken its last word. That is good and we have still hope that peace will prevail.”
Von der Leyen joined calls for Russia to physically provide proof its troops are moving away from confrontation near the Ukraine border.
“Now we hear claims from Russia about pulling back troops, but we have not seen any signs so far of de-escalation on the ground,” she said. “To the contrary, we see that the build-up continues. Therefore, now we need deeds to trust the words we have heard. We will not let our guard down.”