European leaders meeting in Brussels are expected to grant Ukraine EU candidate status, but that historic decision threatens to overshadow more urgent questions about the country’s survival.
Since the Russian invasion began, Ukraine has been crying out for weapons to defend its territory. EU leaders will call for swift work on “a further increase of military support for Ukraine”, according to a draft summit communique that offers scant detail on this vital question.
The EU has already agreed to fund €2bn (£1.72bn) in military aid for Ukraine, mostly for weapons, a historic first for the bloc. But the more pressing question may be how quickly European countries make good on delivering promised weapons. After complaints of foot-dragging from Berlin, earlier this week Ukraine welcomed the first delivery of heavy weapons from Germany, with the arrival of Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzers. Germany and the Netherlands are together supplying Ukraine 12 of the weapons systems, according to German diplomatic sources.
Ukraine also needs cash, as it faces financial ruin. The European Commission is working on a €9bn emergency funding proposal for Ukraine. Details on the mix of grants and loans have yet to be decided. Ukraine’s government has said the €9bn macrofinancial assistance programme sounds good, but falls well short of what is needed. Kyiv requires about $5bn (£4.1bn) a month to keep going, an adviser to the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said last month, while he urged the bloc to provide grants, rather than loans that would add to indebtedness.
After month-long bruising negotiations over the EU’s last round of sanctions against Russia, including a 90% oil embargo, the bloc is reluctant to discuss further restrictive measures touching gas. Instead EU leaders will emphasise closing loopholes in existing sanctions. “Work will continue on sanctions, including to strengthen implementation and prevent circumvention,” state the summit conclusions.