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Macron hosts EU leaders at Versailles for Ukraine summit

EU leaders will scramble at an informal summit near Paris to find ways to address the fallout of Russia's invasion of Ukraine that has hit the bloc's economy and exposed its defensive fragility.

Macron hosts EU leaders at Versailles for Ukraine summit
Ukrainian and EU and flags outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (Photo: Frederick Florin / AFP)

The meeting at Versailles was set to be the high point of France’s six-month EU presidency, but President Emmanuel Macron will instead spearhead a crisis summit to answer Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s brutal disruption to decades of stability in Europe.

“Russia’s war of aggression constitutes a tectonic shift in European history,” a draft of the two-day meeting’s final declaration said.

The leaders will grasp, “how the EU can live up to its responsibilities in this new reality, protecting our citizens, values, democracies, and our European model”.

The 27 heads of state and government meet as fighting raged for a 15th day in Ukraine, with more than two million refugees escaping mainly to Poland but also to countries across Europe.

The conflict has seen a swell of support in the EU for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and leaders were expected to consider the leader’s plea to swiftly join the EU and escape the clutches of Russia.

“Our first priority is to send a political message to Ukraine that it belongs to the European family,” an official from the French presidency said.

Energy issue

But diplomats said the main topic in Versailles was to explore ways to shore up Europe’s self-reliance in a starkly more dangerous world, especially on energy.

“I think energy is the biggest issue on leaders’ minds right now,” said a source with close knowledge of the summit preparations.

The energy price shock caused by the Ukraine invasion has hurt an EU economy emerging from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic and fuelled heated discussions on how to protect consumers.

Western allies have unfurled waves of anti-Russia sanctions whose knock-on effects have exposed Europe’s dependency on Moscow for gas and oil, a reality the meeting will seek ways to address.

Europe’s dependency on Russian energy even caused the first crack in the West’s unified response to Putin’s aggression, with the EU this week shying away from a ban on Russian oil imports implemented by the United States and Britain.

The EU imports about 40 percent of its natural gas from Russia, with Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, especially dependent on the energy flow, along with Italy and several central European countries.

About a quarter of the EU’s oil imports also come from Russia.

According to the meeting’s final declaration, the 27 leaders will agree to “phase out” the bloc’s dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal.

Defence sovereignty
The EU leaders will also try to advance on ways Europe can build its sovereignty in highly sensitive sectors, including semiconductors, food production and, most notably, defence.

Collective security in the European Union is primarily handled by the US-led NATO alliance, but France, the EU’s biggest military power, would like the bloc to play a bigger role.

Since Russia’s belligerence against its pro-EU neighbour, bloc members have approved a total of half a billion euros in defence aid to Ukraine.

Berlin dramatically broke with long-standing doctrine when it announced it will plough €100 billion into national defence.

In view of the challenges, “we must resolutely invest more and better in defence capabilities and innovative technologies”, the leaders were expected to say.

Member comments

  1. EU is already supplying weapons to the Ukrainian side and helping in humanitarian relief, short of starting a war with Russia, a war nobody can win I can’t see the EU doing much else to stop this war.

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POLITICS

Revealed: France’s funniest politicians and their best ‘jokes’

Politicians' jokes are more usually met with a groan than a laugh, but France's annual prize for political humour has been awarded - here are the zingers judged the best in 2022.

Revealed: France's funniest politicians and their best 'jokes'

According to the jury on the Press club, Humour et Politique awards, the funniest politician in France is the Communist leader (and 2022 presidential candidate) Fabien Roussel.

His award-winning zinger is: “La station d’essence est le seul endroit en France où celui qui tient le pistolet est aussi celui qui se fait braquer.”

It translates as ‘the petrol station is the only place where the one holding the gun is also the one who is robbed’ – a joke that works much better in French where ‘pistolet’ means both a pistol and the petrol pump. 

On a side note for British readers – Roussel also looks quite a lot like left-wing UK comedian Stewart Lee, so maybe he has funny genes.

Second prize went to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy with his withering assessment of Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for his old party in the 2022 presidential election, who did extremely badly.

“Ce n’est pas parce que tu achètes de la peinture, une toile et des pinceaux que tu deviens Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, elle a pris mes idées, mon programme et elle a fait 4.8 pourcent”

“It’s not because one buys paints, canvas and brushes that you become Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, she took my ideas, my manifesto and she got 4.8 percent of the vote.”

While these two were jokes – in the loosest sense of the word – the prize can also be awarded to politicians who make people laugh inadvertently, such as last year’s winner Marlène Schiappa who, when announcing plans to ban polygamy, felt the need to tell the French, “On ne va pas s’interdire les plans à trois” – we’re not going to outlaw threesomes.

Here’s the full list of finalists for the funniest political joke of 2022 – somehow we don’t think you’re at risk of split sides with any of these.

Ex-Prime minister Edouard Philippe talking about hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “Il faut une certaine audace pour que quelqu’un qui a été battu à une élection où il était candidat puisse penser qu’il sera élu à une élection où il n’est pas candidat!”

“It takes a certain audacity for someone who was defeated in an election where he was a candidate to think that he will be elected in an election where he is not a candidate!”

Ex-Assemblée nationale president Richard Ferrand: “Elisabeth Borne est formidable mais personne ne le sait.”

“Elisabeth Borne is great but no-one knows it.”

Ex-Macronist MP Thierry Solère: “Mon anatomie fait que si j’ai le cul entre deux chaises, je suis parfaitement assis.”

“My anatomy means that if I have my ass between two chairs, I am perfectly seated.”

Some information that might be useful for this one – the French phrase avoir le cul entre deux chaises (to have your ass between two chairs) is the equivalent of the English ‘falling between two stools’ – ie a person who cannot make up their mind what or who to support. Further information; Solère is a largish bloke.

Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel: “S’imaginer qu’on va remplacer Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme ça, c’est une vue de l’esprit. C’est comme se poser la question de qui va remplacer Jaurès.”

“To imagine that we will replace [party leader] Jean-Luc Mélenchon like that, is purely theoretical. It is like asking the question of who will replace Jaurès.”

Jean Jaurès is a revered figure on the French left, but not currently very active in politics, since he was assassinated in 1914.

Rachida Dati to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Votre présence au Conseil de Paris est aussi anecdotique que votre score à la présidentielle.”

“Your presence at the Council of Paris is as anecdotal as your score in the presidential election.”

There’s no doubt that Hidalgo did humiliatingly badly in the presidential election with a score of 1.75 percent. Daiti didn’t stand in the presidential elections but she did put herself forward to be mayor of Paris in 2020 and was convincingly beaten by . . . Anne Hidalgo.

So that’s the ‘jokes’, but there were also some entries for inadvertently funny moments.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Tous les matins, je me lève en me disant que tout le monde m’aime.”

“Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that everyone loves me.”

But the undisputed queen of this genre is the green MP Sandrine Rousseau, whose ideas and policy announcements seem to have provoked a great deal of mirth.

Je voudrais qu’il y ait une possibilité de délit de non-partage des tâches domestiques – I would like there to be the possibility of a crime of not equally sharing domestic tasks

Les SDF meurent plus de chaleur l’été que l’hiver – The homeless die from heat more in the summer than the winter

Il faut changer aussi de mentalité pour que manger une entrecôte cuite sur un barbecue ne soit plus un symbole de virilité – We must also change our mentality so that eating a steak cooked on a barbecue is no longer a symbol of virility.

If you prefer your humour a little more scientific, Phd researcher Théo Delemazure has done a study of which politicians and political parties are funniest when speaking in parliament.

He analysed how often speeches raise a smile or a laugh (which presumably includes sarcastic laughter) and concluded that the party that gets the most laughs is the hard-left La France Insoumise.

They are also the party that speaks most often, however, when he calculated the laughter rate per time spent speaking, the prize went to the centre-right Les Républicains.

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