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European leaders seek to show unity against Russia: what to watch

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(Bloomberg) — Leaders from nearly 50 European countries will try to show unity in support of Ukraine when they gather in Granada, Spain, even as concerns grow about the reliability of U.S. funding and a new potential ally of Moscow on the continent.

The omission of funding for Ukraine from a spending bill passed by Congress to avert a U.S. government shutdown comes at a critical time for Kiev’s counteroffensive. European support for Ukraine faces a new challenge after Robert Fico, a pro-Russia candidate, won Slovakia’s election on Saturday.

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Topics discussed at Thursday’s European Political Community meeting range from multilateralism to energy and AI. Among those in attendance will be British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose country will host the forum next year.

EU leaders will then hold an informal summit in Grenada on Friday, discussing contentious issues ranging from preparing for the arrival of new members to sharing the burden of migrant arrivals.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s participation in the discussions has not yet been confirmed. kyiv wants to open negotiations with the EU by the end of the year and hopes for a positive assessment of its reforms by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, as early as next month.

Here are the main issues to watch out for:

New members

Kyiv’s EU bid has restarted the bloc’s enlargement process, forcing member states to discuss how to welcome up to nine new members, including Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans. . Challenges include developing common priorities, common funding and improving the decision-making process in a larger, more diverse club.

There is no fast track to fast-track difficult membership criteria, which can normally take more than a decade. European Council President Charles Michel has proposed that the bloc be ready for enlargement by 2030.

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EU leaders will discuss how to lead the process while deepening cooperation between existing members on issues such as the economy or defense. The bloc sees enlargement as a geopolitical tool to strengthen its response to the challenges posed by Russia and China.

European Commission prepares to recommend Ukraine’s accession talks

Defense preparation

EU leaders are expected to pledge to boost the bloc’s defense preparedness, including by investing more in the region’s arms industry. The vow comes as Europe has been slow to increase its arms production – both to help Ukraine but also to replenish its own members’ stocks.

While Europe is on track to double its artillery ammunition production, it is still lagging behind in its goal of sending Ukraine at least a million badly needed artillery rounds. here March.

Military support for Ukraine is becoming increasingly pressing as allies prepare for a long war. But there are growing signs that aid may be harder to come by, including in the United States, where Congress passed an aid-free spending bill for Ukraine to avoid a shutdown of the government.

Migration

EU leaders will discuss the controversial issue of migration after Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, last month proposed a 10-point action plan including support for managing migration. influx and transfer of migrants, as well as stopping smugglers by strengthening air transport and maritime surveillance.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has asked fellow leaders to address the issue as her country is on course to welcome the largest number of migrants this year since 2016. Disagreements between Italy and Germany have blocked last week an agreement on how to manage a massive influx of migrants in the event of a crisis.

—With help from Zoe Schneeweiss.

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