EU to extend market access for Ukraine foods despite pushback

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Good day. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is the latest EU leader to warm relations with the British government and she praised her hosts on a visit to London yesterday for their controversial policy of detaining and deporting asylum seekers. . “I absolutely agree with your work,” she said.

Today, our agriculture correspondent anticipates a vote on extending access to the EU single market for Ukrainian products, and our Paris bureau chief explains why Emmanuel Macron can’t go anywhere right now without the noise of kitchen utensils.

grain drain

kyiv will find out who its real friends are today when EU member states vote on whether to extend duty-free access for Ukrainian grain imports. writes andy limits.

Context: A year ago, Brussels lifted restrictions on Ukrainian food to help the economy and prevent shortages in many developing countries that depend on such imports. But much of the cargo landed in nearby Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. The glut plunged prices, and Poland and three other countries imposed import bans.

EU ambassadors are meeting today to discuss extending the measures, which expire at the beginning of June, for another year. This is seen as the last chance for a deal after Sweden, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, delayed the vote after a heated debate on Wednesday.

States in favor of the deal say there is enough support to get it done. “There is a qualified majority today and there was a qualified majority on Wednesday,” said one diplomat. “This is about the integrity of the single market.”

But the five countries hit by the higher prices, which include some of Ukraine’s staunchest allies, are hoping for more reassurances from Brussels.

Last week, the European Commission offered to halt imports from Ukraine to those countries until June 30, except for goods in transit to other destinations. He also promised support of 100 million euros from an emergency fund of 450 million euros, in addition to the 56 million euros already delivered.

Diplomats warn that the money could be in jeopardy if the fighting continues. “Patience is running out. They should remember that the money has to be approved and other countries might need it,” said one.

Yesterday, the trade committee of the European Parliament voted on the extension proposal.

Seven MEPs from Ukraine’s neighboring states abstained. “Our countries support Ukraine, but not at the expense of our farmers,” Enikő Győri from Hungary tweeted.

However, the extension was approved. Expect the same result today.

Chart du jour: Hitting the ceiling

A chart of the projected debt to GDP ratio from 2023 to 2027 showing that many EU countries will continue to exceed the debt limit

EU finance ministers are meeting today to discuss a review of the bloc’s debt rules. In a new report, the New Economics Foundation argues that the proposed reform would still prevent many EU countries from investing enough to limit climate change.

Pots and pans

Emmanuel Macron may have hoped things would calm down once his unpopular pension reform was signed into law. Instead, things have gotten much louder, writes leila aboud.

Context: The French have been protesting for months against Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The reform, which was approved without a vote in parliament, cleared the last constitutional hurdle earlier this month.

The newest protest tactic is the casserole — also known in English as banging pots and pans whenever and wherever Macron or his ministers appear.

The hardline CGT union, the Attac lobby group and the far-left party France Unbowed have spearheaded the campaign in which protesters armed with kitchen utensils literally seek to drown out the government’s messages as it tries to turn the page in the battle over pensions. .

Macron’s visits to Vendôme in western France and last week to north-eastern Alsace and Herault in the south were spoiled for him cacophony while several ministers have had their trips derailed. The government has begun withholding details of Macron’s travels until hours in advance to try to discourage kitchen-utensil-wielding protesters.

It’s an absurd but fun phenomenon, and a welcome change from the more dangerous protests that erupted in March, which at times included massive garbage fires in Paris and heavy-handed police tactics.

But there is also a darker side: using France’s strict anti-terror laws, the prefects have begun issuing bans about people bringing “sound devices” or “sound amplifiers” to cities where Macron appears, allowing police confiscate pots and pans.

Unions are planning large marches on May 1 for Labor Day in what Macron and his allies hope will be the last gasp of the protests.

Its prime minister this week promised 100 days of government action to improve public services. Will that restore tranquility?

what to see today

  1. EU finance ministers meet for an informal council in Stockholm.

  2. Pope Francis travels to Budapest, meets with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

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