Beidh cruinniú Comhairle na hEorpa ar siúl an tseachtain seo, ar an 23 agus 24 Meitheamh agus beidh cruinniú an euro summit ann ag an am céanna. An t-ábhar is tábhachtaí ná an t-iarratas ón Úcráin chun a bheith mar bhall den Aontas Eorpach. Tá gach aon dealramh ar an scéal anois go dtarlóidh sé sin ag an gcruinniú roimh dheireadh na seachtaine. Tá gach éinne aontaithe faoin aidhm sin, sé sin, go mbeadh treo dearfach ag an Úcráin chun a bheith mar bhall den Aontas Eorpach.
The European Council will meet Brussels later this week on 23 and 24 June. That meeting is expected to be followed by a meeting of the Euro Summit. An EU-Western Balkans meeting will also take place on 23 June. Before turning to these meetings, I will briefly update the House on the special meeting of the European Council which I attended on 30 and 31 May. I also take the opportunity to update the House on my recent visit to Strasbourg and address at the European Parliament. At the special meeting of the European Council on 30 and 31 May, we discussed the situation in Ukraine, including international justice, humanitarian, financial, political and economic support, and the impact on neighbouring countries.
We also discussed energy defence and food security. On the first day of the summit, we were joined by video conference by President Zelenskyy for the opening of our discussion on Ukraine. We expressed our unwavering commitment to support Ukraine in exercising its right to self-defence against ongoing Russian aggression. We called on Russia to immediately withdraw from the internationally recognised territory of Ukraine. We also called on Russia to allow humanitarian access and the safe return of people forcibly removed to Russia.
We welcomed efforts to gather evidence and investigate war crimes and indicated our support for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in that respect. Ireland has joined 40 countries in referring what is happening in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. Our objective is that Russia, Belarus and all those responsible are held to account for their actions in accordance with international law.
We discussed the need to cut Russia's oil and gas revenue and agreed a significant new sixth package of sanctions. We reaffirmed our intention to continue to support Ukraine in addressing humanitarian liquidity and reconstruction needs, including through new macro-financial assistance of up to €9 billion in 2022.
We concluded that the European Union is also prepared to play a key role in the reconstruction of Ukraine along with international partners. European Union support for reconstruction will be linked to the implementation of reforms which will additionally support Ukraine's progress on its European path. I will return to this topic further in my remarks.
Leaders also welcomed recent agreement to increase military support to Ukraine under the European Peace Facility. Ireland will again contribute towards non-lethal elements bringing our support to a total of €44 million of the overall €2 billion in support provided under the four packages. Furthermore, we welcomed the adoption of the decision to suspend import duties on all Ukrainian exports to the European Union for one year. We reiterated our call for an end to repression in Belarus and the democratic right of the Belarusian people to new, free and fair elections.
The sanctions package which we agreed includes a prohibition on imports of Russian crude oil and certain petroleum products by sea on a phased basis.
A temporary exemption is in place for imports by pipeline. The bulk of Russian oil is expected to be banned from the EU by the end of the year.
Other restrictive measures in the package include listings of a further 65 individuals and 18 entities, the removal of four banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, SWIFT, a prohibition on the provision of accountancy, consultancy, public relations and cloud services, additional export controls and prohibitions on three Russian broadcasters. It also targets additional Russian and Belarusian banks and Russia state-owned broadcasters responsible for Russian state propaganda. The sale and transfer of European property to residents of Russia are now prohibited.
Ireland had frozen more than €1.72 billion of Russian assets by 17 June. We will continue to use our membership of the United Nations Security Council to hold Russia accountable and to urge Russia to end its war in Ukraine immediately. Some €20 million in humanitarian aid provided by the Government is being disbursed through United Nations and non-governmental organisation, NGO, partners in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. Ireland has also provided medical assistance and supplies, including ambulances valued at more than €3 million, in a partnership between Departments, the HSE and other agencies working with private sector and civil society partners. A total of 13 medical evacuations of patients from Ukraine to Ireland have been completed to date, including some whose ongoing care in Ukraine has been interrupted by the crisis and some war-wounded with trauma-related injuries. Two containerised water treatment plants, valued at €460,000, have been shipped by Irish Water to Ukraine, which will supply 6,200 people in Ukraine with clean water.
On the second day of the summit, we discussed energy, defence and food security. With the war in Ukraine, we have reached the watershed moment. Europe is now acting decisively to make a fundamental break with Russian fossil fuels.
When we met last month, EU leaders had an initial discussion of the Commission's REPowerEU plan and how to fast-forward the transition to renewables, including reducing energy usage, producing clean energy, reducing delays in permit processes for clean energy and diversifying our energy supplies. The best medium- to long-term approach to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets is to increase investment in energy efficiency and renewables, enhance electricity interconnection and deepen the internal energy market. We also discussed food security and were joined in our discussions by Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Chairperson of the African Union.
It is clear that with his targeted destruction of agricultural production and his blockade on Ukrainian ports, Putin is deliberately trying to force and further aggravate a food crisis. Impacts are already being felt in parts of Africa and the Middle East, where some countries are particularly exposed to Russian and Ukrainian exports, and have lower food security.
EU leaders called for effective and swift international co-ordination, including through the United Nations, to keep global trade in food free of unjustified trade barriers and to enhance solidarity towards the most vulnerable countries so as to avert hunger. We also returned to our discussion on security and defence in follow up to the publication of the strategic compass strategy. We discussed the analysis of defence investment gaps within the EU published by the European Commission on 18 May which covers expenditure, industrial gaps and capability gaps, with all agreed on the need for more and better investments. We reaffirmed our support for the global, rules-based order with the United Nations at its core.
I visited Strasbourg on 7 and 8 June. I met with representatives of the Council of Europe to mark Ireland's six-month presidency of the body and paid a visit to the European Court of Human Rights. At the European Parliament, I unveiled a bust to honour the life and career of the late John Hume.
On Wednesday, 8 June, I had the honour to address the plenary session of the European Parliament, reflecting on the 50 years since Ireland voted to join what is now the EU. In my remarks, I set out the impact EU membership has had on Ireland and the positive contribution we make to the EU as a community of shared values. I had a welcome opportunity to thank President Metsola in person for the European Parliament's support and solidarity throughout the Brexit process.
I will now turn to this week's upcoming meetings. An EU-western Balkans leaders' meeting will take place on the morning of 23 June. EU leaders will meet with our counterparts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia. The meeting will be an opportunity to take stock of progress on key investments under the economic and investment plan for the western Balkans, to discuss geostrategic issues, to explore ways to foster people-to-people contacts and from the EU's perspective, to promote greater alignment with democratic values and the EU's common foreign and security policy across the countries in the region.
The economic and investment plan launched by the European Commission in February aims to spur long-term recovery, accelerate a green and digital transition and foster regional co-operation. It will help attract public and private investments, backed by the western Balkan guarantee facility, which has a potential to mobilise up to €20 billion.
I have long been an advocate for improving and accelerating the EU enlargement process, including for countries of the western Balkans. I believe that more needs to be done to positively encourage the reform commitment and aspirations of those seeking to join the EU. Greater use should be made of the provisions for accelerated integration within the existing methodology. I would like in particular to see the opening of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia without delay. The French presidency has been very active in seeking to secure a compromise under which Bulgaria would lift its current block on negotiations with North Macedonia. While there is limited time left ahead of the meeting, it would be very welcome if progress could be made.
I welcome the agreement reached by political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 June. This agreement underlined the importance of the implementation of reforms that advance Bosnia and Herzegovina's European integration in areas, including democracy, rule of law, fundamental rights and public administration reform. Granting Bosnia and Herzegovina candidate status when the time is right would mean that all five western Balkans countries that have formally applied for membership would have candidate status.
Our partners in the western Balkans have been heavily impacted by Russia's war on Ukraine, in particular those who have demonstrated strong solidarity with Ukraine and are closely aligned with the EU's position, including with regard to sanctions. This week we will have an opportunity to discuss how the EU can continue to support those countries in the face of the ongoing war.
The agenda for June's European Council covers wider Europe; Ukraine; the membership applications of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia; economic issues; and the Conference on the Future of Europe. We may also touch on some foreign policy issues, including in respect of Turkey. The Minister of State, Deputy Troy, will address the Conference on the Future of Europe in his remarks later as well as the prospects and possible agenda for a meeting of the euro summit this week.
EU leaders acknowledged the European aspirations and European choice of Ukraine in our Versailles declaration on 11 March. Last Friday, following an assessment process, the European Commission recommended that Ukraine be granted candidate status. This is an historic moment. If endorsed by the European Council, as I expect it will be, it will place Ukraine on a firm path towards EU membership, where it belongs. Every sovereign country has a right to determine its own future free from external pressure and duress. The people of Ukraine have chosen a future in the EU and they deserve our full support. I have long advocated for this outcome and I will be arguing strongly that it be endorsed at our meeting. It will provide a great boost to the people and Government of Ukraine who have stood firm in defence of our shared European values in the face of the most appalling Russian war. I hope that it will give them heart and courage in the weeks and months ahead. It is a message that Europe stands with them now, that we will continue to stand with them whatever lies ahead and that we will be with them as they work to rebuild their country.
The road to EU membership is complex and challenging. It requires considerable work on the part of the country looking to join. Ireland is ready to walk every step of that journey with Ukraine, providing whatever support and encouragement we can along the way.
I warmly welcome the recommendation that Moldova also be offered candidate status and that Georgia be offered a European perspective and candidate status once a number of priorities have been met.
As I said before, as we know from our own experience, membership of the EU is transformative. As we mark 50 years of our own membership, we hope that others will be able to benefit from the same peace, prosperity and opportunity.
Leaders will also discuss the sanctions we have put in place against Russia, including looking at how to close any loopholes and block off any route to circumvention. We will also look to make explicit that food and agricultural products are exempt from sanctions.
In the face of a global food crisis, this is the right approach, as is the European Union's close co-operation with the UN and others to act now to stem worsening food security and growing global hunger.
On economic issues, leaders are expected to endorse the country-specific recommendations for this year's European semester and look forward to Croatia adopting the euro from the beginning of 2023. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the introduction of euro bank notes and coins and it is positive to see the number of countries using the euro growing to 20 from next year. I expect that leaders will also meet in European summit format and hear from the President of the European Central Bank, ECB, Ms Christine Lagarde, and the President of the Eurogroup, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, on economic prospects in Europe in the period ahead. Leaders across the Union are very focused on the impact of rising inflation, energy prices and interest rates, not least on our citizens. With many predicting that the war in Ukraine may be long, it is important that we come together to discuss collective strategies on how to manage this difficult and evolving situation. The Minister of State, Deputy Troy, will speak to these issues in more detail later.
We will also have an initial discussion on the issue of wider Europe. President Macron has some proposals on the concept of a European political community. We are, without doubt, at an inflection point in European history and these discussions will help us frame our wider regional political engagement. As we come to the end of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the end of June, I would like to take this opportunity to commend and express my appreciation to President Macron and the wider French Presidency team for their successful stewardship of the work of the council during this period of acute risk and difficulty with Russia's brutal war in Ukraine. The French Presidency laid the groundwork for the EU to act with unity of purpose and clear focus over recent months. I also wish to take this opportunity to wish the incoming Czech Presidency, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Fiala, every success and to express my ongoing support for a proactive, strong and strategic European Council agenda as we look into the next half of the year.
I look forward to the opportunity this week of engaging collectively and bilaterally with my EU counterparts as well as western Balkan partners on a broad range of pressing economic, political and security issues. I will report to the House on our discussions after the meeting.