Things could get frosty at Prague EU summit

European Union heads of state and government gather for informal summit


Talks on the response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the resulting energy crisis and the worrying economic situation will dominate proceedings in Prague today and tomorrow as European Union heads of state and government gather for an informal summit.

The EU has just announced stronger sanctions against Russian president Vladimir Putin’s regime after Moscow escalated the war in recent weeks with a national mobilisation and sham referendums to annex territory.

There is unity among European leaders that “Our solidarity with Ukraine and its people remains unwavering.”

However, when it comes to responding to the energy crisis Germany is making itself very unpopular as our Brussels correspondent Naomi O’Leary outlines in today’s Europe Letter.

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She writes that in recent days the growing frustrations of some European Union member states towards Germany - and the perception that the European Commission is overly influenced by the wishes of Berlin - spilled out into the open.

EU countries were troubled at why the commission had not drawn up a technical plan for the consideration of national governments on how the EU as a whole could introduce a cap on the price it pays for gas imports.

Opposition in Berlin was blamed for this reticence so when chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would borrow €200 billion to pay for its own national gas cap and subsidise the bills of companies and households, as Naomi writes “it was received like a cold shower”.

Things could get quite frosty in Prague.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to arrive in the Czech capital later and our Political Editor Pat Leahy will be there to provide updates on the summit.

One interesting sideshow will be the attendance of British prime minister Liz Truss at a simultaneous “European Political Community” meeting which will include EU member states as well as some like Britain who are outside the bloc.

As Pat detailed on Wednesday, there is a wait and see approach among Dublin politicians and officials as to whether positive noises from London on efforts to resolve the row over the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland protocol will translate into serious action.

Watch this space.

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Truss Movin’ on out?

Liz Truss will arrive in Prague fresh – well, perhaps more accurately exhausted – after a chaotic Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

The fallout out from her disastrous mini-budget which has involved U-turns and likely further U-turns has some in her own party questioning if the new prime minister still be in 10 Downing Street at Christmas.

Here’s a selection of headlines from how British papers covered her keynote address to the Tory faithful.

The Financial Times headline ‘Rallying cry: Truss attacks ‘anti-growth’ coalition in bid to get premiership back on track’ highlights how she hit out at the opposition, trade unions, anti-Brexit and environmental campaigner

The Guardian has a similar theme with its front page headline: ‘Truss delivers a new common enemy to fractured Tory party’.

The Times lead is ’U-turn or face election wipeout’, a warning from former Conservative Party culture secretary Nadine Dorries, who was a close ally of ousted PM Boris Johnson.

The Daily Mail is more supportive saying ‘Defiant Liz Takes Fight to her Critics’ as is, unsurprisingly the Daily Express with ’Truss: Stormy Days Ahead… But I’ve got your Back’.

The Daily Telegraph meanwhile is not finished with the mini-budget saying: ‘Income taxes to rise by £21bn despite Budget’.

When the Tory-leaning Telegraph is still raising questions about Truss’s economic policy you know she’s in trouble.

In the Spectator – hardly and anti-Conservative publication – James Forsyth assesses how the ‘Truss revolution came off the road’ under the headline ‘Crash Course’.

The Metro’s headline meanwhile, is ‘Movin’ on up… or is Liz Movin’ on Out?’ a reference to the M People 90s pop hit which blared on the speakers as Truss arrived on stage.

Predictably enough, M People founder Mike Pickering has said the band is “livid” that their song was used on stage by the prime minister.

Sky News reported him as saying: “She won’t be around to use it again for very long. I would imagine.”

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Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray reports the State has reached an agreement with its landlond on the €10m lease error on Department of Health headquarters.

She also reports on the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting and how a new group of its TDs to propose changes to controversial concrete levy from the budget.

Miriam Lord looks at the heavy lifting being done by junior ministers amid rare sightings of their senior colleagues at Topical Questions in the Dáil.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has signalled a major overhaul of planned law on right to request remote working as it proves trickier to get over the line than originally throught.

Playbook

European Union leaders are to begin arriving at their summit in Prague at 11am Irish time.

Back home the HSE’s new interim chief executive Stephen Mulvaney is due before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at 9.30am to be quizzed on the National Ambulance Service.

Other matters to be examined in the HSE’s accounts include payments to the State Claims Agency, grants to outside agencies, non-compliant procurement, spending related to the cyberattack in the HSE and its review of high earners in the HSE.

Leaders’ Questions is in the Dáil at noon with Government business in the afternoon.

The full Dáil, Seanad and Committee schedule can be found here, and here.