by Yiannis Paleologos
VERSAILLES - RESPONSE. Resistance within the EU is strong against new excesses to deal with the multifaceted crisis that erupted with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The informal Versailles Summit, which starts in a few hours and ends tomorrow, will focus on promoting EU energy independence and decoupling from Russian fossil fuels, strengthening joint defense capabilities and strengthening the bloc's economic base.
However, on three critical fronts - new sanctions, granting Ukraine candidate status and resorting to joint lending to finance the necessary investments and consumer support - nothing is expected to be tangible in the Joint Declaration of the 27 Eu member states.
Five to six countries are still pushing for clearer wording in favor of Ukraine's future EU membership. A large number of Member States, however (about half), are reluctant to move in this direction. "We do not want to make promises that we will not be able to keep," a European diplomatic source told Kathimerini.
A senior European diplomat stressed that accession was "a serious, technocratic process" that has been developed over a long period of time and should not be bypassed. He mentioned the possibility of Ukraine being included in the Erasmus program, gaining access to financial programs and participating regularly in EU Council meetings as possible alternatives, which would show the necessary moral support to the Zelensky government.
Respectively reluctant - at least at this stage - are countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark to consider a possible new joint borrowing in the recovery Fund standards to deal with the new economic crisis and to finance vital investments in defense and energy.
The same high-ranking European diplomat noted shortly before the start of the Summit that the proposal for joint bonds "is not on the table" in Versailles and stressed that there is great potential for unused resources, both from the original Eurogroup package that was to be used for the pandemic as well as RRF loans (231 billion have been left in the coffers by the RRF due to some Member States not requesting them).