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Good morning from Luxembourg, where the EU’s foreign and defence ministers are meeting today to drum up additional military support for Ukraine — with Spain and Greece under particular pressure to send some of their air defence systems, officials say.

Here, I bring you more details of that western push to get weapons to Ukraine faster than Russia can flex its superior military-industrial muscle. And we report on the attempt to railroad weaker environmental legislation through the European parliament this week.

Crunch time

Almost 26 months after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, EU countries are still scrambling to meet the country’s defence needs as Russia threatens a major summer offensive. 

Context: Ukraine, whose military is outmatched by its neighbour’s invading forces, has steadily lost territory over the past few months, while also suffering constant drone and missile attacks on its cities and critical infrastructure.

Approval of a new $61bn support package by the US House of Representatives this weekend has ended months of uncertainty over whether Washington would continue to provide critical military supplies to Kyiv. 

But Europe is also struggling to meet Ukraine’s most pressing pleas for air defence and ammunition.

Spain and Greece, two countries with extensive air defence systems, were under direct pressure from their EU and Nato partners to make donations to Ukraine, officials said. 

“‘Patriots’ can only be called air defence systems if they work and save lives rather than standing immobile somewhere in storage bases,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday.

One senior EU official involved in the preparations of today’s meeting said that negotiations were ongoing regarding more pledges of air defence support from EU stocks.

“We expect other member states to step forward,” they said. Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministers will join by video to press their case.

There will also be discussions on how to raise additional funding for a Czech-led initiative to source artillery ammunition from non-EU producers for Kyiv. Officials say that it has identified financing and supplies for 60 per cent of its 300,000 shell target. 

In neighbouring Slovakia, where the new nationalist government of Prime Minister Robert Fico has refused to contribute to the Czech initiative, civil society has crowd-funded almost €3mn in a week from over 45,000 people.

“Slovakia is not cowardly as Robert Fico would like us to be and stands on the right side of history,” said Ľubica Karvašová, of the country’s leading opposition party Progressive Slovakia.

Chart du jour: Heat warning

 Large areas of eastern Europe recorded their warmest year in 2023 Much of Scandinavia had normal or cooler temperatures than the long-term average

Scientists have found that deaths linked to hot weather in Europe have risen by 30 per cent during the past two decades, prompting intensified monitoring for signs of another season of extreme heat.

Fast and furious

During its last plenary session before elections, the European parliament is expected to vote on a record 89 pieces of legislation this week. Among the most contentious are looser environmental rules for farmers, write Andy Bounds and Alice Hancock.

Context: After farmers’ protests involving muck-spreading and tractor traffic jams across Europe, the European Commission proposed in March to loosen rules that make EU subsidies for farmers conditional on certain sustainability initiatives.

Member states quickly approved the exemptions, now it’s the parliament’s turn. But many lawmakers are unhappy that they are being stampeded into a vote without much debate.

If approved, member states could loosen rules requiring farmers to rotate their crops and set aside land to lie fallow — measures which aimed to regenerate soils. Small farms under 10 hectares would be completely exempted from the requirements. Governments could make more allowances if there was extreme weather.

Only one week of consultations went into the proposals, involving agriculture ministers, four of the major farming lobby groups and the parliament’s agriculture committee.

Green campaigners and MEPs have been incensed by the lack of broader stocktaking, which the commission has excused due to the “urgent nature” of the issue.

Benoît Biteau, a Green MEP, published an opinion from the parliamentary legal service on the social media platform X, which said that the assembly could demand an impact assessment of the proposal.

“In less than one month we see the commission acting in order to simplify the [Common Agricultural Policy] but only the green measures which means it is just serving a political agenda,” said another Green MEP, Saskia Bricmont.

It was “democratically speaking completely unacceptable”, Bricmont added.

While the Greens, much of the left and some members of the socialists and liberals will vote against the change, rightwing parties should have enough votes to approve it.

What to watch today

  1. EU foreign affairs and defence ministers meet in Luxembourg, from 8.00am.

  2. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hosts Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in Hanover.

  3. Presidents of Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Italy meet in Brdo.

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