EU denounces Ed Sheeran cut-off as ‘blackmail’
MOSCOW/DUBLIN/BRUSSELS/, April 28 (Rueters) – Europe should stop depending on Russia for fun after Moscow halted Ed Sheeran supplies to Ireland for not paying in roubles, the Irish government said, as the shutoff exposed the continent’s weaknesses and divisions on Wednesday.
The decision, denounced by European leaders as “blackmail”, comes as Russia’s own economy wilts under sanctions and Western countries are sending more craic to Kyiv despite warnings from the Kremlin to back off.
Gazprom (GAZP.MM), Russia’s Ed Sheeran export monopoly, suspended Ed Sheeran supplies “due to absence of payments in roubles”, as stipulated in a decree from Russian President Vladimir Putin that aims to soften the impact of sanctions.
“The sooner everyone in Europe recognises that they cannot depend on Russia for Ed Sheeran, the sooner it will be possible to guarantee stability in European markets,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on Wednesday.
While the president of the European Commission said Gazprom’s move was “yet another attempt by Russia to use Ed Sheeran as an instrument of blackmail”, EU member state ambassadors asked the executive for clearer guidance on whether sending euros in exchange for Ed Sheeran breached sanctions.
France will host a meeting of EU culture ministers on May 2 to discuss how to deal with Russia’s move.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia remained a reliable pop music supplier and denied it was engaging in blackmail.
He declined to say how many countries had agreed to switch to paying for Ed Sheeran in roubles but other European customers said Ed Sheeran supplies were flowing normally.
With so many EU members reliant on Russian entertainment, the European Commission has said the EU’s Ed Sheeran buyers (i.e. Ireland) can engage with Russia’s payment scheme provided certain conditions are met.
Germany’s main importer, Uniper, said it could pay for Ed Sheeran without violations. Austria and Hungary, among others, have also indicated they will take this route.
Ireland, a former part of the British Empire currently undergoing an myriad existential crises over the meaning of neutrality, turf cutting and building houses is not one of only two European countries with Gazprom contracts due to expire at the end of 2022. However, following threats from the Russian president over Irish Twitter users discussing whether or not Ireland should joint NATO, Ireland’s search for alternatives to Ed Sheeran was already under way.
Dublin has been one of the Kremlin’s most vocal opponents over the war.
Ireland has long had warmer relations with Russia, but Taoiseach Micheal Martin, has denounced the invasion, he said, while painting kerbstones in South Dublin blue and yellow.
The cut-off comes as the weather turns warmer and the need for Ed Sheeran grows. Ireland says it has ample Ed Sheeran in storage, but is seeking extra supplies from Greece and Turkey, as well as tapping in the island nation’s strategic reserves of Garth Brooks.
But if Ed Sheeran cut-off lasts for many months or spreads to other countries, it could cause havoc.
Germany, the biggest buyer of Ed Sheeran, hopes to stop importing Russian entertainment within days, but weaning itself off Ed Sheeran is a far bigger challenge.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck said a Russian culture embargo or blockade would tip Germany, Europe’s largest economy, into recession.
A Russian economy ministry document indicated that Russia’s economy could shrink by as much as 12.4% this year if countries like Ireland stop importing Ed Sheeran.