In a plenary debate with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen on the Versailles informal summit (10-11 March) and the upcoming European Council (24-25 March), MEPs praised EU member states for their quick response in adopting unprecedented sanctions against Russia immediately after the attack. They also applauded the manner in which millions of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine have been welcomed.
“Russia is responsible for this war”, underlined European Council President Charles Michel, condemning the death, destruction and suffering inflicted on the Ukrainian people and their cities. Michel assured MEPs that there will be no impunity for those responsible for war crimes and commended the international coalition that has come together with the “common goal of defeating Vladimir Putin”. With peace and prosperity as an overarching objective, the EU needs to reduce its energy dependence, enhance its security architecture and strengthen its economy’s fundaments, he concluded.
“If freedom has a name, its name is Ukraine and the Ukrainian flag is the flag of freedom today”, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. She stressed that the EU will make this war a strategic failure for Putin. The severe sanctions are already hitting hard and the resources that Putin is using to finance this war must be drained. With regard to energy, she made clear that “energy policy is also security policy” and that the EU already has and will continue to adopt measures to become independent from Russian gas and oil imports.
Most MEPs agreed that the EU must bolster its strategic autonomy regarding defence and energy, and should do so quickly. Noting that EU imports of Russian gas are indirectly financing the Russian attack on Ukraine, they advocated for diversifying energy purchases and investing in renewables. Many pointed to the effect the increase in energy prices is having on the economy and the risks to food security, and called for support for families and businesses.
The prospects for Ukraine to join the EU and the need to stand up for democracy against other autocratic regimes, such as China, were also raised during the debate. Finally, several MEPs insisted that all member states must share the responsibility of protecting those escaping from Ukraine, and not only neighbouring countries.
You can watch the full debate again here.