EU Leaders Tackle Inflation, Energy 06/24 06:14
A day after endorsing Ukraine's candidacy to join the European Union, the
bloc's leaders turned their attention Friday to the severe economic turbulence
looming over the coming months as the full impact of Russia's war sinks in and
the threat of recession rises.
BRUSSELS (AP) -- A day after endorsing Ukraine's candidacy to join the
European Union, the bloc's leaders turned their attention Friday to the severe
economic turbulence looming over the coming months as the full impact of
Russia's war sinks in and the threat of recession rises.
The EU's 27 leaders gathered in Brussels to grapple with surging inflation,
energy shocks, dwindling business and consumer confidence, and growing budget
The leaders also will have to contend with higher borrowing costs as the
European Central Bank prepares to raise interest rates for the first time in 11
years to counter runaway price increases. ECB President Christine Lagarde, who
plans to raise rates next month and again in September, joined the EU summit to
discuss the darkening economic outlook.
"We are in a difficult situation," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena
Andersson said on her way into the summit. "It's very important that we have
The EU has spent the previous decade battling a series of crises, ranging
from Greece's financial woes and transatlantic trade disruptions under former
U.S. President Donald Trump to Britain's departure from the bloc and the
The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, on Friday announced plans
to issue 50 billion euros ($52.7 billion) of EU bonds to aid member countries
between July and December as part of its flagship economic recovery program.
With no end in sight to the war in Ukraine and the EU committed to stepping
up sanctions against Russia as punishment, the bloc must battle economic
threats on multiple fronts.
Energy poses a major challenge for the EU, which for years has relied
heavily on Russian oil, natural gas and coal to help power cars, factories,
heating systems and electricity plants.
Under pressure to keep pace with American and British penalties against
Russia, the EU since April has expanded what were already unprecedented
sanctions by targeting Russian fuels. A ban on imports of Russian coal will
start in August and an embargo on most oil from Russia will be phased in over
the coming eight months.
Meanwhile, Moscow itself is disrupting natural gas deliveries, which the EU
didn't include in its own sanctions for fear of seriously harming the European
economy. Before the war, the bloc got about 40% of its gas from Russia.
"It's very likely that Russia will use gas and energy as a blackmail toward
European Union countries," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said. "Russia
will use it as a tool, as a weapon against us, so we have to help each other."
Moscow has reduced gas supplies to five EU countries, including heavy
importers Germany and Italy, and cut off deliveries to six member states, such
Germany on Thursday triggered the second phase of a three-stage emergency
plan for gas supplies, saying the country faces a "crisis." Weaknesses in
Germany, Europe's largest economy, risk having a broad spillover effect and
making the EU's latest economic growth forecasts look too rosy.
"The impact will be enormous for Germany but also for all the other European
countries," Belgian Premier Alexander De Croo said.
In May, the European Commission said the EU's economic output would expand
2.7% this year and 2.3% in 2023 after 5.4% growth in 2021. Other forecasts have
already downgraded growth prospects. As this year began, the bloc was still
facing effects -- including higher budget deficits -- from the pandemic, which
caused the economy to shrink 5.9% in 2020.
The ECB has pledged to create a market backstop to protect the 19 countries
that share the euro currency from market turmoil as it tackles record inflation
of 8.1%. A selloff in the bonds of some euro nations was a central feature of
the debt crisis a decade ago.
"The next few months will be very difficult," said European Parliament
President Roberta Metsola, who attended the first day of the summit Thursday.