Dear Prime Ministers,
Mariupol is a town I have never visited but it is the name of a town that I will never forget. The shelling of a maternity ward and children’s hospital is an act that will go down in infamy. An act of inhumanity that sums up the nature of the threat we face.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine shattered the peace we have long known in Europe. It has changed everything, probably forever. And, our response must be proportionate to the serious, real and growing threat to our collective security.
We need to re-assess Europe’s role in this new world.
Firstly, we urgently need to boost our investment in defence and in innovative technologies and continue to build a real Security and Defence Union. One that can be proactive, flexible, agile and resilient. One that is capable of countering new threats. That means putting our money where our mouth is. It means reforming PESCO.
It means raising our national budgets and it means making intelligent use of our common EU budget, to ensure that capability needs can be matched by collective funding where necessary.
The Union budget is our key instrument to strengthen solidarity and cohesion.
We must go beyond the European Defence Fund and make the EU budget work for our security and defence policy wherever it adds value. We must use the budget to implement the Strategic Compass, and make the Defence Union a reality.
The Defence Agency and the other Union agencies working in the field should be brought under the EU’s budget umbrella. As we look for ways to further break taboos and build a stronger European defence, we should examine this option again.
Secondly, we need to re-double our efforts to reduce our energy dependencies on the Kremlin.
Our immediate goal must be energy security. Security comes from diversity – diversity of our energy sources, suppliers and supply routes.
In this moment of crisis, we need to remember that energy is – and always has been – political. Russia has understood this for years.
Now is the time for the Union to send a clear message by:
- Restricting the import of Russian export goods, including gas, oil and coal;
- Reviewing all certification awarded to Russian energy companies;
- Addressing gas storage options, joint procurement for gas, joint financing schemes;
- Increasing the share of low carbon and renewable energy in our energy mix through a faster implementation of the Fit for 55 package.
Our target must be towards a future of zero gas from Russia. Ambitious but necessary.
The European Parliament has been a strong proponent of renewable energy objectives, increasing interconnections between Member States, stepping up our storage capacity and reducing reliance on single suppliers. These actions can help the EU both substitute Russian gas and increase rapidly the share of our own sources of energy before 2030. It is clear we have to move from fossil fuels to more sustainable and clean energy sources, renewables, hydrogen, but also safe and modern nuclear energy in order to attain our ambitious climate goals.
The bottom line is that: we should not be forced to fund the bombs falling on Ukraine.
We need to look at rising energy prices and what steps can be taken to mitigate that.
We must also be able to explain these steps to our citizens. Here particularly, you can count on the European Parliament and our members to help spread the message of Europe.
Thirdly, we must talk more about food security. This must also become part and parcel of our discussions on Europe’s strategic autonomy. Our supply lines must become clearer and stronger.
Fourthly – what we have seen so far in terms of European coordination, solidarity and unity is unprecedented – and must be the blueprint for us going forward.
Member States have led efforts to welcome more that 2 million Ukrainians into our communities and our families. We have matched massive sanctions with practical solidarity that allowed Ukrainians straight into European homes and hearts. It is the best of Europe on display.
Our actions matched our ambitions. We have given Ukraine aid, weapons, and with an open European perspective, through their candidature to join the Union, giving them hope of cementing their European future. And we also need to do more to help neighbouring countries to cope and that must include Moldova and Georgia.
We cannot leave Ukraine alone. And I know the personal commitment around this table to make sure we do not. Putin underestimated our resolve almost as badly as he underestimated the resilience and resistance of Ukrainians.
Their resilience is one that we must share. We know Putin will not stop in Kyiv, just as he did not stop in Crimea. The tactics he refined in Syria have been unleashed in Europe. We are right in our efforts to make this the costliest mistake he has ever made.
Our sanctions must continue to bite hard. Kremlin oligarchs must be refused access to the comforts they have grown accustomed to in Europe. Our businesses must no longer look to Russia for growth. Public pressure has played a big part in this, but we must be ready should that fade. Simultaneously, we must ensure crypto-currencies or new fin-tech tools do not provide an escape clause.
It must hurt Putin and we must be ready for it to hurt us too – but it is a cost we must bear at this turning point in European history, a price I think our people are willing to pay.
As the cost of Putin’s war touches our communities, we need to be ready to secure Europe’s economic footing. That means restructuring and reinvesting in research and raw materials – and the EU Chips Act that the Commission proposed is so important – but it must also mean helping those businesses that we expect to no longer look to Russia and doubling down on the digital and green transformations. Our green deal is as much about climate as it is about security. We must also work together globally to ensure a democratic alliance to safeguard our digital autonomy.
Allow me a word on the information war we are facing. Not only do we need to bolster our cyber-defences but we need also to keep pushing back against the narrative that confronting Putin makes Europe somehow anti-Russia. Russians standing up to Putin, despite the threat of jail, are the ones who can make the difference here. They are on the right side of history. Our side.
Finally, we need to be clear: What Putin and Lukashenko are doing in Ukraine is criminal. It is a war crime. It upends the democratic world order and we must hold those responsible accountable through the international criminal court when the time comes. That would be the ultimate victory for the people of Ukraine, for the rule of law, and for our rules-based way of life.