September 29, 2023


European Council President Charles Michel has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to remotely join a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels next week.

But what Michel’s invitation letter doesn’t say is if leaders are planning to sign off on a sanctions package that includes a ban on Russian oil imports. The sanctions plan has been blocked for weeks since Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán refused to give his backing, citing the cost to his country’s economy of stopping imports of Russian fuel.

Leaders will on Monday and Tuesday also discuss how best to organize the “support for Ukraine’s reconstruction, as a major global effort will be required to rebuild the country,” Michel’s letter reads.

What the country really needs now, Ukrainian authorities say, is for EU member countries to stop buying Russian fossil fuels and cut off a key funding stream for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal war.

While the letter underlines the need to “phase out our dependency on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible,” there is no mention of the sanctions package.

Earlier this week, Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen did not align on whether a deal was possible before the summit. While Michel said he was optimistic that a deal could be reached before the summit, von der Leyen told POLITICO she didn’t want to raise “false expectations” that an agreement could be struck next week.

Leaders will also address soaring energy prices, food security and defense, with Ukraine as the link between all topics.

With shortfalls of Ukrainian grain exports putting African countries at risk of extreme hunger, Macky Sall, African Union chairperson and Senegal’s president, will also join the discussion on food security.


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