Home » Wagner mutiny in Russia changes EU summit agenda

Wagner mutiny in Russia changes EU summit agenda

The Wagner Group’s short-lived coup attempt in Russia and its repercussions for Moscow’s military leadership in the war against Ukraine have suddenly become the number one topic of discussion for the upcoming two-day EU summit — where representatives from all 27 member states will meet in Brussels this Thursday and Friday.

Though summit chair Charles Michel mentioned the situation in his invitation to attend, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will now speak at a summit-opening lunch and is sure to fuel the discussion.

Stoltenberg has warned the EU and the West not to underestimate Russia in the wake of the weekend’s events. The NATO secretary-general intends to address what it will mean for Europe’s security situation when Yevgeny Prigozhin and parts of his private army take up positions in Belarus.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda sees his country under threat as a result of recent developments and has called for a further strengthening of NATO’s eastern flank. On Wednesday, Nauseda, who will host the next NATO summit in two weeks, traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Will Ukraine join the EU?

Ukraine’s prospects of joining the European Union are also scheduled to be discussed at the EU summit as Zelenskyy continues to push for the start of formal membership proceedings before the end of the year.

It remains unclear whether Brussels is willing to take that step. Nevertheless, the European Council should “send a clear signal that we stand by Ukraine… that we support Ukraine on the path to freedom and peace. And also on its path to EU membership,” said Anna Lührmann, Germany’s minister of state at the Federal Foreign Office.

Lührmann and her 26 counterparts are responsible for preparing the summit. Among other things, the confab is intended to drum up further financial and military assistance for Ukraine. The meeting will yet again underscore the EU’s commitment to provide support for “as long as it takes,” said European Council President Charles Michel.

The European Commission recently requested that budgetary allocations for long-term Ukraine aid and EU defense projects be raised by €66 billion ($72.2 billion) by 2027, yet so far member states have rejected the idea. Austria’s federal minister for the EU, Karoline Edtstadler, for instance, said the European Commission should first “use its imagination” to rearrange its roughly €1.1 trillion budget instead of demanding more cash.

Expedited membership process for Western Balkan states?

Not only will heads of state and government be dealing with the membership requests they approved for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia last year, they will also have to grapple with the accession processes of six Western Balkan states — which have been dragging on for years. Ahead of the summit, EU diplomats say efforts are being made to speed up the process.

Still, it remains unclear how those efforts will in fact play out. “We don’t like to put the Western Balkan countries aside,” said Croatia’s State Secretary Andreja Metelko-Zgombic: “We would also like to see a strong message to our six Western Balkan partners, because they should be able to take concrete steps. They should enable them to also move forward on their European path.”

Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo — which Serbia sees as a breakaway province — continue to be the biggest impediment to achieving that goal. A resolution to the conflict, which regularly erupts in violence, is to be discussed at the summit. EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell’s previous attempts to mediate, however, have remained unsuccessful.

Is the EU still fighting over migration?

On the migration front, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is once again expected to make waves. He and his Polish counterpart, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, say they intend to protest recent EU migration policy reforms.

Ahead of the summit, Orban told Germany’s Bild tabloid that he had no intention of paying €20,000 for each migrant Hungary refuses to accept. “We have spent more than €2 billion to defend the Schengen Area against illegal immigrants. We haven’t gotten a cent from Brussels. Why should we pay any more?” he said.

What’s more, Orban considers the new migration process agreed upon three weeks ago by the EU’s interior ministers too soft. He said it essentially tells human traffickers to just keep doing what they have already been doing for years.


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