The European Union intends to adapt its trade policy to the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape, focusing on relations with America, but also taking into account the importance of engagement with China.
“Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine is the main, but not the only, factor causing this recalibration,” European Commission (EC) Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said at a press conference on Friday following a meeting of EU trade ministers.
He noted that the European Union continues to provide the necessary support to Ukraine, “making every effort to further isolate Russia.”
He believes that the situation in Ukraine has set a new goal – focusing on transatlantic relations. “And we have made significant strides forward in recent months,” Dombrovskis said, referring to the results of the recent meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC).
According to him, the main conclusion of the TTC was that the key is to remove trade barriers and prevent the emergence of new ones.
“We will also be looking at building more sustainable supply chains for semiconductors. The same goes for critical raw materials, where we are exploring the so-called “friend-shoring” concept,” the European official said.
Among other examples, he named the joint work with the Americans on the standard of chargers for electric vehicles.
Prospects for trade and investment relations between the EU and China, Dombrovskis said, should be viewed against the backdrop of both geopolitical shifts and new challenges to the global economic environment.
“In general, it is clear that the relationship between the EU and China is becoming more complex. But there was also a clear view that engagement with China is important,” he said.
Dombrovskis said the EU would be the strongest supporter of WTO reform. Its trade agreements with external partners should help diversify supply sources and create export opportunities.
“Accordingly, we must seek (within the EU) a new consensus on how to advance our bilateral partnership: it is clear business as usual is not an option,” he said.
The European Union has developed a plan to phase out Russian gas, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton said on the Europe 1/CNews TV channel, ZN.ua reports.
“We import 155 billion cubic meters a year from Russia. We will have to get rid of Russian gas… Putin is using gas to divide us, he has done everything for many years to divide Europe,” Breton said.
In 2021, about 45% of EU natural gas imports came from Russia.
According to the European Commissioner, it is necessary to quickly abandon the import of Russian gas. In particular, the EU plans to increase purchases of liquefied natural gas from the US and Qatar, as well as expand the capacity of green energy.
“We developed a plan with my teams,” Breton said.
The new plan will include “50 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas imports from the US or Qatar, an additional 10 billion from existing pipelines, acceleration of offshore wind turbines and photovoltaic panels totaling 25 billion cubic meters,” he said. Restarting coal-fired power plants is also an option under consideration.
In response to Ukraine’s request for the evacuation of patients in need of medical care and forced to leave the country due to the war unleashed by Russia, the European Union is coordinating the relevant work, as well as financing the medical aircraft involved in the transportation.
Balazs Ujvari, representative of the European Commission, announced this on Monday in Brussels.
“As the war continues and people continue to leave the country, health care systems in neighboring countries are under significant strain in Poland, Slovakia, Moldova. For the evacuation of patients in need of medical care, Ukraine requested assistance from the EU. In response, the EU coordinated the evacuation of nearly 200 people through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to eleven European countries. The first RESCEU medical evacuation aircraft funded by the EU has been operational since March and is being accepted by Norway, a member state of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism,” he said.
Ujvari also listed the countries that accept Ukrainian patients. These are Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain and Portugal.
Car sales in the European Union in March fell by 20.5% compared to the same month in 2021, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said in a statement.
Negative factors for the market are the ongoing disruptions in supply chains due to the war between Russia and Ukraine.
According to ACEA, the number of cars registered last month in the EU countries (excluding Malta, for which statistics are not available) amounted to 844.187 thousand against 1.063 million in the same month a year earlier. All four of the region’s largest markets posted double-digit declines: Spain – 30.2%, Italy – 29.7%, France – 19.5%, Germany – 17.5%.
The number of new car registrations in Europe (EU countries plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which left the European Union on January 31, 2020) fell by 18.8% in March to 1.127 million.
Sales of the Volkswagen group (including Skoda, Audi, Seat, Porsche, etc.) decreased by 24.3% last month, Stellantis (combined by Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group) – by 32.9%, BMW – 20.5%, Mercedes -Benz – 13.6%.
Realization of cars of Renault group decreased by 14.1%, at the same time cars of Lada jumped by 35.3% (up to 211 cars).
Japanese Toyota reduced sales by 12.2%. South Korean Hyundai increased them by 0.5%, Japanese Honda and Mazda – by 21.7% and 5.5% respectively.
In the first quarter, car sales in the European Union fell by 12.3% compared to the same period in 2021 (to 2.246 million), in Europe as a whole – by 10.6% (to 2.753 million).
The questionnaire on accession to the European Union, which the head of the European Commission Ursula von del Leyen handed over to President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky during her visit to Kyiv on April 9, has been completed, Deputy Head of the Office of the President Igor Zhovkva said.
“As the president promised to the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, when she visited Ukraine on April 9, the Ukrainian side will fill out a questionnaire. A week has passed today. And today I can state that the document has been completed by the Ukrainian side,” Zhovkva said on the air of a nationwide telethon in Sunday.
According to him, after receiving the completed questionnaire, the European Commission will prepare a recommendation on Ukraine’s fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria for joining the EU. Ukraine, in turn, expects to receive the status of a candidate country for EU accession as early as June this year.
“We expect that the recommendation will be positive, and then the ball will be on the side of the EU member states. In June there will be a meeting of the European Council, where we expect Ukraine to be granted the status of a candidate country for EU membership … Next, accession negotiations should begin. And, when we will hold such negotiations, it will be possible to talk about full-fledged membership of Ukraine in the EU,” he said.
“We are talking about an accelerated procedure. We cannot afford 10-15-20 years of such negotiations. Negotiations must be held quickly. Ukraine deserves it, and most EU member states support us in this,” Zhovkva added.
The European Union will make every effort to support the energy sector of Ukraine, primarily to provide fuel to its agricultural sector in order to avoid a food crisis, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson assured. “We will support Ukraine in terms of energy. There are many sectors that need support, for example, the agricultural sector. This is very important for Ukrainian farmers. Also, the importance of this issue lies in the fact that African and Middle Eastern countries depend on the state of the agricultural sector in Ukraine. Therefore, we will do everything to supply fuel here to support your economy so that it does not suffer more,” Simson said on the air of the nationwide UA telethon on Monday. She stressed that the EU countries really want to help Ukraine with fuel supplies, including providing funding, but for this, important logistics issues need to be resolved right now. At the same time, Simson pointed out that the EU, dependent on Russian gas, has already done a lot to strengthen its independence from Russian energy carriers, and continues to do so, and takes into account the interests of Ukraine in the search for alternative options. “The European Commission advises all EU members to intensify work to increase their own energy independence, we are looking for alternative directions for the supply of energy carriers for our countries. These are, for example, Azerbaijan, other countries. The world has not come together in Russia,” the European Commissioner noted. “When we discuss this issue with our suppliers, partners, we always take into account the interests of Ukraine,” she stressed.