Addressing EUCO leaders, EP President Roberta Metsola spoke on Ukraine’s European path, Europe’s compassionate and strong response, and the need to diversify energy sources away from Russia.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola remarks at the European Council of 24 March 2022, Brussels:
This invasion of Ukraine has changed everything for all of us. It means everything that we have been defending and promoting around the world about our way of life and our European values is now at stake. Europe must meet the moment if we are to ensure that this does not change everything for the next generation too. This is our moment.
I am proud of how Europe has responded, and led by example both in terms of aid to Ukraine and in holding the Kremlin to account. And I am proud of the global alliance that we have built. The rules-based order of the world remains strong. Putin miscalculated not only the courage and resistance of Ukraine, but the strength of the democratic order. He fundamentally mistook our debates for weakness and he will now pay an unprecedented cost.
Ukraine, more than ever before, now looks to the European Union as its destination. We must respond with honesty but also with the hope that they desperately need. Of course, every country must have its own path, which can be a complex one, but the European future of Ukraine should not be in doubt. Just as we owe clarity to the Western Balkans.
Russia’s recent threats against Bosnia and Herzegovina leave no doubt that Putin is ready to continue his destructive campaign also in the Western Balkans.
Millions of people have fled Ukraine. Millions more are internally displaced and expected to make their way to Europe. We must be ready, but more importantly we must be willing to do what is necessary to provide a future without fear for those arriving at our borders. We must lead this effort. The face of Europe we must show must be one of open hearts and open homes. A tangible expression of our European way: matching compassion with strength.
We must remain vigilant. Too many vulnerable people, mainly women and children, are at risk of exploitation or worse, and we must ensure the legal instruments are in place that allow us to identify who is at our borders.
That means a renewed effort in pushing forward with legislation that is already on the table. We can find solutions, and in all my talks with so many of you, I have seen willingness and the understanding that the world has changed and therefore we must too. The next months are crucial and you will find the European Parliament as a constructive and pragmatic partner. The activation of the Temporary Protection Directive was good, but we know it will not be enough.
The point I want to underline is that the European Parliament shares the same goals and wants to find solutions to the common challenges we face.
We have a window of opportunity to find practical and workable solutions to files on asylum and migration that have been blocked for too long. Now is the time to reinforce our unity before we are faced with an impossible situation and again have to face our citizens with excuses on why we did not manage.
The same in true for the rule of law. We can find a way forward. Our European way, that Ukraine wants part of, is about the spirted defence of the rule of law, of justice, of equality, of opportunity. We cannot lose sight of why Ukraine is pushing so hard to join our Union. The shared values we have are what makes this project worth fighting for.
On security, Putin has accelerated this debate by a generation. Our mind-set is fundamentally different now. We are at risk and we must get closer together, raise our national defence contributions and use our common EU budget more efficiently. Let us look at what unspent funds remain and channel them towards the causes that need them the most.
We cannot talk about security without also talking about food security. We have to anticipate the next crisis on our doorstep and find ways to protects our supply lines, our farmers and our people.
On energy, I want to underline the importance of the synchronisation of the Ukrainian and Moldovan power grid with ours: a tangible result. This was accomplished thanks to an extraordinary effort by those involved, who rose to the challenge. The continued support showed by neighbouring Member States to ensure that gas flows eastwards to Ukraine, providing a third of Ukraine’s gas needs, is also to be commended.
At the same time, energy prices across the Union are rising and I want to express support for the initiatives calling for coordinated approaches, presented by many of you.
The European Parliament also welcomes the new proposal of the Commission to ensure that EU’s gas stocks are replenished to 80% of capacity ahead of next winter, through joint procurement mechanisms, mandatory strategic stocks and the inclusion of additional solidarity measures. Member States and the Commission should know that Parliament is prepared to deal with the proposal with the urgency the present situation requires. We are ready.
We must urgently work to diversify our energy sources away from Russia. Our long-term target must be zero gas from the Kremlin. We know this cannot happen overnight but this is the only long-term solution.
As ambitious as we have been with Fit for 55, we now need to move faster not slower. This concerns our security, our independence as well our climate considerations.
Finally allow me one quick word on the need to support the reconstruction of Ukraine. Here, our Union can also take the lead as we did with the creation of a Special Solidarity Fund for Ukraine. The efforts of Greece and Italy in promising to re-build theatres and hospitals in Mariupol not only give tangible results, but give hope.
Hope is what Ukraine needs to sustain. Belief in Europe. Belief in pushing back against Putin’s massive war machine.