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EU leaders turn to foreign policy after agreeing to disagree on gas cap

european commission president ursula von der leyen and european council president charles michel hold a news conference, in brussels
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel hold a news conference after the first day of the European leaders summit, held to discuss Ukraine, energy, economic issues and external relations in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2022. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

 European Union leaders will discuss cutting their economic dependency on China, aiding Kyiv and punishing Iran for its involvement in the war that Russia is waging on Ukraine when they meet for a second day of talks in Brussels on Friday.

The previous day, the 27 EU leaders locked horns over a joint response to the acute energy crunch that has engulfed the bloc since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Their summit talks started on Thursday afternoon and ran into the wee hours on Friday as Germany stuck to its refusal to cap gas prices and the 27 could only agree to disagree, declaring they will keep on examining options to put a ceiling on costs.

As they turn to foreign policy from 0800 GMT on Friday, they will have a “strategic discussion” on their ties with China after the bloc’s executive said earlier this week the EU should see Beijing more as a competitor.

That comes ahead of the EU’s first full summit with the ASEAN group of Southeast Asian countries planned for Dec. 14, which Europe is hoping will bolster trade and geopolitical relations with a region in the shadow of China.

UKRAINE, IRAN

Europe’s reliance on Russia was laid bare when Moscow cut gas deliveries following its invasion of Ukraine, leaving the EU grappling not only with a political, security and humanitarian crisis across its border, but also an energy one.

On Thursday, the EU imposed swift but limited sanctions on Iran for supplying drones for Russia’s war in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that this century has sought to integrate with the West against vehement opposition from the Kremlin.

Some EU countries want wider sanctions against Iran, and the summit will also condemn Tehran’s use of force against protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained for “inappropriate attire”.

Poland and the three Baltic states have also proposed more sanctions against Russia, including a ban on importing diamonds, but that is unlikely to be agreed on Friday as any such decision would require unanimity among the 27 that is lacking.

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