The editorial on this week’s news regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine by our director, Italian journalist Raffaele Crocco.
The Russians say that the European Union is ‘not in great shape’. And if it’s them to say so – those who should have looked with some concern at the sixth sanctions package launched by Brussels – one suspects it might be true.
It was a difficult birth, we know. In this sixth package, decisions were made about oil and gas, raw materials that Russia has been guaranteeing to the 27 EU countries for years and at a good price. The sanctions front immediately crumbled. Orban’s Hungary, which gets about 65% of the oil it uses from Russia, got in the way and led the front. It is not the first time, it will not be the last. Orban demanded guarantees: ‘If I have to buy oil from others, paying more for it,’ he basically said, ‘I want to avoid finding myself with galloping inflation and people in the cold. Therefore, no total embargo, but a step-by-step initiative, which will allow some EU countries – those landlocked – to continue taking oil from Moscow at least until the end of the year.
The compromise arrived after days of discussion, without any mention of the gas conundrum, which remains in the background with all its ambiguities. It is enough to think of how Germany and Italy have given in to Moscow’s blackmail, deciding to pay for supplies in roubles in order to keep them. Or to Holland and Belgium, which have already said they want to postpone any new sanctions for the time being: they prefer to see how this new package will go, what the effect will be.
Thus, the spectacle we are left with is that of a dwarf European Union, which faces the clash with Moscow by raising its voice, but without tools and without intimidating. The rules of the Union and the slippery interests of the 27 prevent common and decisive stances, capable of conditioning the behaviour of Putin, that is of what in common declarations appears as ‘the enemy’. The governments’ need to secure consensus while maintaining the living standards of their citizens seems to prevail over everything. Any hypothesis of a common foreign policy is cancelled out by the needs of the rulers, who renounce principles and human rights in the name of the market, production and, indeed, consensus.
The European summits try to console themselves. The President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, explained that she welcomes “the cut of more than two thirds in crude oil imports from the Federation. The agreement at the European Council on oil sanctions against Russia will reduce Russia’s oil imports into the EU by about 90 per cent by the end of the year’. Words that sound like fig leaves. Brussels has been saying ever since Putin invaded Ukraine that it is ‘on the side of the aggressed’. It seems only able to prove this by ceding arms to Kiev or threatening Moscow with re-arming to ‘counter’ it on the Continent. It is the simplest, least arduous and, within certain limits, the only choice it seems able to make: to use weapons to impose a reason. Too bad that the Union then appears so babbling and confused that it no longer even knows which reason it really wants to defend.
Cover Image: Luxembourg square, Bruxelles ( – Own work)