The heads of state and government have responded to Russia’s attempt to shatter taboos in seeking to shift European borders by force again by sending out “a powerful signal of unity”, said Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the press conference after the European Council meeting. The sixth sanctions package now “mutually agreed on” includes an embargo on Russian oil. Within a few months’ time, this will affect 90 percent of the import of Russian oil products coming into the EU. Oil supplied via pipelines is temporarily excluded.
For the Federal Government – as well as for the Polish government – the following applied, said Scholz: “We will continue to pursue our ongoing efforts to be able to do without imports of Russian oil products by the end of the year.” In addition to the oil embargo, EU leaders agreed to exclude numerous financial institutions from the SWIFT payment system. “All in all, the Council meeting as a whole bore out Europe’s great unity and solidarity with Ukraine,” stressed Scholz.
Humanitarian, military and financial aid for Ukraine
Member states are also providing humanitarian aid, with Germany having taken in nearly 800,000 registered Ukrainians to date. This showed the extent to which the citizens of our country and many people in local communities were willing to help those seeking protection and in need of our support, said Scholz.
Germany is additionally supporting Ukraine in its defence by providing weaponry. “This is something we have been doing and will continue to do,” explained Scholz. For example, he said, he had agreed with the Greek Prime Minister that Germany would provide Greece with arms partners so that the government in Athens could supply weapons to Ukraine.
Ukraine also receives financial support. Germany had already made a major contribution, said Scholz, “namely by providing one billion euros in direct subsidies. We have issued a declaration to this effect within the framework of the G7,” said the Federal Chancellor.
The heads of state and government also discussed initial ideas for the reconstruction of Ukraine. The Federal Chancellor said he was certain that “this will be a very, very challenging task for the next few years – for a very long time”. Together with numerous institutions and experts, he said, a way had to be found for Ukraine to start to rebuild its country, despite facing a large mountain of debt and having suffered a great deal of destruction.
Making joint progress on climate change and energy policy
The RePowerEU package was at the focus of discussions on energy policy between the heads of state and government. The European Commission previously presented this package on 18 May in response to Russian aggression. “The immediate consequence of the Russian attack is that we want to make ourselves independent of fossil imports from Russia,” said the Federal Chancellor. “It will be a major challenge to organise all this while at the same time managing to make the investments required to put a stop to man-made climate change and achieve a carbon-neutral economy in Germany within a short period of time.”
RePowerEU includes concrete measures to achieve these goals: These include:
– improving energy efficiency,
– accelerating the energy transition,
– diversifying supply sources.
- The energy tax on fuels will be reduced to the European minimum for three months from 1 June.
- The 9-euro ticket is valid from 1 June for use on local public transport as an inexpensive and at the same time environment-friendly alternative to driving a car.
- As of 1 July, the EEG Renewable Energy Sources Act levy will be abolished, relieving consumers of a total of 6.6 billion euros in electricity costs.
Greater contribution to European security
Finally, the heads of state and government addressed the issue of security and defence policy. The main question here was how European capabilities in this area might be strengthened and coordinated. It was important for Europe to “better coordinate our procurement policy and industrial policy with regard to defence”, said the Federal Chancellor.
At the talks in Brussels, Scholz stressed the enormous importance of Germany now launching its special 100-billion-euro fund for the Federal Armed Forces. “This will probably make the Federal Armed Forces the largest conventional army in NATO, at least here in Europe,” said the Federal Chancellor in his concluding statement in Brussels.