PM Pedro Sanchez has long described António Costa as "an old friend" Photo: António Cotrim/ Lusa

PM flies to Madrid to discuss Ukraine/ sanctions against Russia

Meeting to “prepare” for extraordinary EU summit next week

PM António Costa will be in Madrid later today to meet Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez in preparation for next week’s ‘extraordinary EU summit’, taking place in Brussels (on Monday and Tuesday).

The summit is due to discuss help for Ukraine, and sanctions against Russia.

The two Iberian prime ministers are meeting this evening, for a ‘working supper’. No statements are expected to be made to the press afterwards.

Secretary of State for European Affairs Tiago Antunes has stressed that ‘questions of energy and food security’ will be part of the meeting – with Portugal’s position on the former fairly critical.

As the PM outlined last week during his visit to Poland, Portugal seeks to use Sines port as a solution to some of the bloc’s energy needs now that imports on Russian oil and gas have been drastically reduced. But for this to be realistic, ‘interconnections’ between Portugal, Spain and France are “fulcral”.

These very interconnections have been dismissed in the past. The war in Ukraine however has changed opponents’ thinking – and Portugal’s ambition now is to be the gateway for “a real European energy market”, for which there will need to be “a lot of investment” and “political will” – which is what is hoped to come during next week’s extraordinary summit.

Tiago Antunes explained yesterday that Portugal’s immediate task is to ensure the technical work – to “resolve the question of countries that only have resources to transform the type of oil that Russia produces – moves as quickly as possible in order for the EU to continue to have a united stance on sanctions”.

As to the continued help for Ukraine, Mr Costa has pledged a lot of that already (in his trip to Kyiv last weekend). 

Today’s meeting seeks for agreement with Spain on the importance of “robust solidarity” not just in the immediate term, but when it comes to the process of reconstruction.

With regard to the question of food security, this will be discussed by the two men as the EU position is that answers have to be found over how to release cereals desperately needed in ‘vulnerable’ African countries, but currently trapped in Ukraine’s ports by the Russian war machine.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com