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The war in Ukraine strengthens European Union unity, will it last?

People walk on a bridge next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris (February 9, 2022)
People walk on a bridge next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris (February 9, 2022)

PARIS — Zohra puts packets of sliced bread, canned fruit, and vegetables into carts, all free food she never thought she would need.

Other Parisians waited patiently in Paris to receive the weekly food distribution from the Salvation Army. Most are reluctant to talk. Volunteers prepare to distribute more food in a nearby room.

Zuhra lost her job at a medical clinic a few months ago. “Everything is going up in price, rent, electricity, and gas. People can’t live like that. 

Such end-of-year sentiment is growing across the EU, which is facing an energy crisis and a war for the first time in decades. If the EU has sometimes shown amazing unity and strength during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, analysts say, some have questioned how long it will last as the cost of winter, supporting Ukraine and European values climb.

Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund, said: “This is changing in many ways, in areas where it is difficult for the EU to move quickly,” and “in some areas, it moves very quickly and surprises a lot of people.” The

EU approved nine rounds of sanctions against Russia in 2022, providing billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and hosting millions of Ukrainian refugees. Europe has also ended its dependence on cheap Russian energy, sought new suppliers and sources, and stockpiled natural gas before winter.

But the war in Ukraine has hit Europe’s economic and energy security, at least in the short term, and slowed the EU’s emissions reduction targets. The International Monetary Fund and other experts believe the EU will slip into recession in 2023. Despite government efforts, prices and poverty are increasing.

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Samuel Coppens, a spokesman for The Salvation Army, said: “We were really surprised that we saw that many young students had a hard time making it to the end of the month,” and “single parents and elderly people with thin pensions could not afford to pay for heating.” For them, food matters most. A

recent IFOP survey found that more than half of French respondents were worried that their income would not cover their monthly expenses. A quarter believes charity is needed.

Valerie, a health worker from Cameroon, joined The Salvation Army’s food distribution program a few weeks ago. “I can buy it for 50 euros, and my shopping cart is still not full,” she says.

She added, “I didn’t like this war from the beginning,” and, “I think there will be consequences here.” Now I think the poorest are taking a hit.

Europeans

are sending generators to Ukraine after Russia attacked its energy facilities, and some are preparing for a possible power outage at home. Germans are storing candles, and Finns with electric cars are asked not to heat their cars before entering.

Half of France’s nuclear power plants are being serviced offline. The authorities are asking people and businesses to save electricity for heating in hopes of avoiding possible power outages.

Valerie, a tourist from southern France, said, “My village raises money for Ukrainians,” “But if there is no electricity, it will be difficult for French and Europeans.” It does affect our daily lives and morale.

John Springford, deputy director of the Center for European Reform said that “there is a strong unity at the moment,” and “if the war in Ukraine turns into a complete stalemate, things could be harder.”

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French energy expert Thierry Bros is more pessimistic. He believes that Russia’s energy war can defeat Ukraine and affect European solidarity.

“Our energy is decreasing, our wealth is decreasing, the economy is going into recession, and these can lead to fatigue in Ukraine,” Borås said.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viking Orban suggested that EU sanctions against Russia should be repealed and temporarily blocked the EU from providing $19 billion in financial aid to Ukraine. The bill was finally passed last month.

Poland and Germany disagreed over the installation of a German Patriot missile air defense system, and some reports suggest a larger disagreement.

Analysts say the EU is also divided over the Russian threat and Europe’s future relationship with Moscow. French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent statement that the West should provide “security guarantees” for Russia has sparked fierce opposition from Poland and the Baltic states.

Sebastien Maillard, head of the Jacques Delors Institute in Paris, said that “it is clear that to fight the Russian invasion is to defend their own freedoms,” “which is evident to Poland, the Baltic states and the Balkans.” This is not obvious to western Europe.

Lesser of the German Marshall Fund believes Europe faces another test. U.S. financial and military support for Ukraine has so far surpassed that of the European Union.

“When it comes to the issue of rebuilding Ukraine, which includes what might be done now to support Ukrainian society even before the end of the war, I think the U.S. side will be more strongly demanding that Europe do more and spend more money,” Lesser said. ”

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