EU mulls ‘Ukraine solidarity fund’, Ireland begins ‘war tilling’ as Europe continues response to invasion

22 Mar 22

The European Union is considering setting up a fund to “provide basic services and meet citizens’ immediate needs” in the face of the ongoing invasion by Russian troops, a top official has said.

European Council president Charles Michel said the ‘Ukraine Solidarity Fund’ could be financed by donors at a future international conference.

Now weeks into the invasion, the suggestion came amid Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s public requests for closer ties with the EU, with the leader having repeatedly asked for immediate membership of the bloc.

“The fund would give liquidity for continued support to authorities and in [the] longer term serve as backbone for reconstruction of a free and democratic Ukraine once hostilities stop,” Michel said on Twitter following a phone call with Zelenskyy.

On Sunday Michel told a press conference the 27 EU heads of state had sent a “strong political signal” to Ukraine at a meeting, suggesting they support the application for membership.

They also agreed to begin work connecting Ukraine’s electricity network to the EU’s.

“The European Union will support Ukraine’s free and democratic choice to define its own destiny,” said Michel.

“This destiny is chosen by Ukraine wanting to come closer to the EU through this application.”

EU member state Ireland plans to pay Irish farmers to grow grains including barley, wheat and oats in order to boost supply, which has fallen because of the war.

The government is drawing up a €12m ‘wartime tillage’ programme, paying farmers €400 per hectare to grow the crops, which are native to Ireland and have a comparatively low need for chemical fertiliser, which is often imported from Russia and has recently become more expensive.

“The illegal invasion in Ukraine has put our supply chains under enormous pressure,” agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue said.

“There is a need to focus our supports on the tillage sector given the narrow window we have to plant crops.”

Slow economic activity in Europe as a result of the war has been tipped by rating agency Fitch to cut global GDP growth from 4.2% to 2.5% in 2022.

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