D.he European Union showed its solidarity with Ukraine on Tuesday and promised it further support. “We share the same values and the same fate as a European family,” said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the summit meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj in Kiev. In addition to an investment package of 6.5 billion euros, energy supply played an important role in the talks in which EU Council President Charles Michel also took part. Together with Ukrainian experts, we are working on ways to increase gas delivery capacities from the EU, said von der Leyen.
Ukraine has stopped purchasing natural gas directly from Russia since 2015, although there is a large pipeline running through the country. Instead, Kiev buys gas mainly in Slovakia; from there it is “pumped back” in the opposite direction through the former Transgas pipeline. Von der Leyen announced that closer cooperation with Kiev in the construction of gas storage facilities would also be examined. This is apparently part of a package of proposals that the Commission intends to present this Wednesday in order to reduce the high energy costs.
Closer security cooperation
The talks in Kiev also focused on closer security cooperation. Ukraine wants to participate with its own troops in the EU operation Althea, the military stabilization mission in Bosnia-Hercegovina. In addition, the country wants to participate in several projects of structured military cooperation, or Pesco for short. The EU, in turn, “will explore ways to provide greater support to Ukraine’s resilience, including professional military training,” the summit statement said. The European External Action Service (EEAS) has been examining several options for this for a few weeks, but has kept a low profile publicly.
This was initiated by several Eastern Member States. As diplomats report, they first campaigned for a training mission in Ukraine at the meeting of EU defense ministers in Lisbon at the end of May. The initiative came from Lithuania, supported by Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Sweden. At the end of July, the Ukrainian foreign and defense ministers asked the EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell for help in a joint letter. “We have dealt intensively with the Ukrainian request to help with military training,” says an EU official involved. At the end of September, a team was in Ukraine to sound out the situation. Several options were then presented to the Member States. This included a new military training mission as well as the expansion of the existing civil advisory mission, which could be active in officer training at military academies.
Germany favors this second option. It can be realized more quickly and the difficult relationship with Russia would be less of a burden than an independent military training mission, according to the rationale. Most states, including the EEAS, should also tend to do so. On the other hand, France supports the eastern member states – apparently also in order to get them to agree to a more independent European defense policy. In view of the disagreement, the actual needs should now be determined more precisely by mid-November.