Poland drops veto to EU summit deal, clears way for Ukraine funding package

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By Gabriela Baczynska and Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS, Dec 15 (Reuters) – Poland withdrew its objections to a minimum corporate tax at an EU summit on Thursday, unblocking a whole package of linked agreements that includes 18 billion euros ($19.16 billion) in financing for Ukraine in 2023, diplomats said.

Leaders had been held up on several fronts at the Brussels summit, at the end of a tumultuous year which saw the EU close ranks to support Ukraine after Russia’s invasion but also often struggle to agree how much pressure to put on Moscow. 

Diplomats said Poland had blindsided EU peers who had not expectedits objection to a carefully negotiated package, but Warsaw’s veto had now been dropped. “There is a deal,” one said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had earlier addressed leaders by video link and urged them to approve the aid his country needs nearly 10 months into the war.

“I am asking you very much to ensure that our struggle for peace for Ukraine and for the whole of Europe does not depend on misunderstandings and controversies between some EU member states,” he said.

EU leaders were also set to make another push at agreeing on a ninth package of Russia sanctions. 

Any decision requires unanimity and the EU’s Russia hawks Poland and Lithuania have warned proposed exceptions for food security might in fact benefit Russian oligarchs in the fertilizer business.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said it was important to keep the sanctions as strong as possible. “We are a little bit concerned with attempts to weaken the sanctions under the cover of food security,” he said. 

The leaders, who were not expected to hold in-depth talks on the EU’s struggle to agree a natural gas price cap, instead tasked their ministers with doing so when they meet again on Monday, diplomats said.

‘NOT FOR SALE’

Meanwhile, with the heating reduced in EU buildings as part of measures to save energy, some EU leaders were seen shivering.

Split on how to react to the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – $430 billion worth of tax breaks for green energy – they tasked the EU’s executive Commission with making proposals early next year to prop up the bloc’s industry.

Poorer EU countries want a coordinated response and warned richer member states like Germany against supporting their industries without showing solidarity with the rest of the bloc.

“Today we see that too often countries are trying to install schemes on their own. It looks a bit like a game of the deepest pocket,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.

The summit was also overshadowed by a corruption scandal rocking the European Parliament.

After Belgian prosecutors charged Eva Kaili, a Greek member of the EU chamber, and three others for accepting bribes from World Cup host Qatar, European Parliament chief Roberta Metsola said the assembly “is not for sale”.

She said the house would have an in-depth review of how it deals with third countries and would reinforce whistleblower systems. Qatar and Kaili have denied any wrongdoing.

($1 = 0.9395 euros)

Poland holds up EU deal on minimum corporate tax, aid for Ukraine

EU members fail to reach agreement on new Russia sanctions – diplomats

(Reporting by John Chalmers, Phil Blenkinsop, Gabriela Baczynska, Sabine Siebold, Jan Strupczewski, John Chalmers, Benoit Van Overstraeten, Kate Abnett, Tassilo Hummel, Michel Rose; Writing by Ingrid Melander, and Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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