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EU unveils energy price curb scheme, solidarity with Ukraine unshakeable

In a bid to flatten the upward energy price curve that shocked Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a series of proposals, while stressing that the EU’s solidarity with Kyiv would be “unshakeable.”

Moscow’s calculated move of slashing gas supplies in an attempt at blackmailing the 27-nation European Union to ease or do away with its sanctions has sent the bloc’s energy prices and inflation sky-high. This has prompted some within the EU to argue that the sanctions were hitting the EU more and should be softened.

I am delighted to welcome First Lady Olena @ZelenskaUA, my guest of honour for tomorrow’s State of the Union address.

The courage of Ukrainian people has touched and inspired the world.

Europe will stand with you every step of the way.

We will #StandStrongTogether#SOTEU

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 13, 2022

But European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, in her annual state of the union speech before the EU’s parliament and special guest Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska, said sanctions were having a real impact on Russia and were there to stay.

Dear Olena @ZelenskaUA, it took immense courage to resist Putin’s cruelty. ⁰
But you found that courage.

You have given courage to the whole nation. ⁰
And you have given hope to all of us ⁰
Glory to a country of European heroes. Slava Ukraini!

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2022

This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement,” said von der Leyen, who was set to travel to Kyiv later on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We are in it for the long haul.”

“And I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail,” she told the assembly in Strasbourg, France, wearing blue and yellow – the colours corresponding to both Ukraine’s and the EU flags.

When Magdalena and Agnieszka, who are with us today, heard about trains full of refugees, they rushed to the Warsaw Central Station.

They set up a tent and soon gathered 3000 volunteers to welcome refugees 24/7.

Their story is about everything our Union stands and strives for

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2022

The EU Commission chief has proposed to help European households and companies by imposing cuts in electricity usage across the bloc.

Millions of Europeans need support to pay their energy bills.

Some companies produce electricity at low cost and make great margins.⁰
We propose a cap on their revenues that will raise more than €140 billion.

And we will deeply reform our electricity market.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2022

“Making ends meet is becoming a source of anxiety for millions of businesses and households,” she said, proposing measures to cap revenues from low-cost electricity generators and force fossil fuel firms to share the profits they make from soaring energy prices.

“In these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits benefiting from war and on the back of our consumers. In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it most,” she said.

Should have listened to Poland and the Baltic States’ warnings

Ursula von der Leyen shared her reflection with the European Parliament that the EU has learned a lesson from this war and should have listened to Poland, the Baltic States and Central and Eastern European countries that had for years been warning that Putin would not stop.

She also felt that Europe had done what should have been done when the Russian army crossed the Ukrainian border.

“And I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail,” von der Leyen said. “Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable.”

Russia is on “life-support”

It is not the time for the bloc to soften its stance, Ms von der Leyen said at a time when Ukraine has been securing territory it reclaimed from occupying Russian forces in a blitz counter-offensive.

Russia’s financial sector is on life-support”, she said, adding that nearly one thousand international companies have left the country. “The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to fix their military hardware, because they ran out of semiconductors. Russia’s industry is in tatters.”

Ms von der Leyen stressed that Europe had diversified away from Russian energy, albeit Moscow was still “actively manipulating” the market and gas prices have risen by more than 10 times compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other topics

Moving away from the topic of the war in Ukraine, she went on to consider Moldova, Georgia and Western Balkan countries part of “our family” and the future of the EU.

I want the people of the Western Balkans, of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to know:

You are part of our family, your future is in our Union, and our Union is not complete without you!

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2022

The European Commission chief also voiced her support for the idea of reforming EU institutions through an update of the EU’s treaties, something she claimed citizens had shown they wanted.

Every action that our Union takes should be inspired by a simple principle.

That we should do no harm to our children’s future.

It is time to enshrine solidarity between generations in our Treaties.

The moment has arrived for a European Convention.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2022

“We need to improve the way we do things and the way we decide things,” von der Leyen said.

Lawmakers heard her support for their call for a convention to debate potential reforms, needed in particular if the EU continues to expand beyond its 27 members potentially welcoming Ukraine and some Balkan States.

If we want to be credible when we ask candidate countries to strengthen their democracies, we must also eradicate corruption at home.

That is why we will present measures to update our legislative framework for fighting corruption in the coming year.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) September 14, 2022

Ms Von der Leyen noted some people believed now was not the right time.

But in May, 13, EU countries mostly from the Nordics and Eastern Europe said they opposed “unconsidered and premature” attempts to launch a process of treaty change. In a joint statement, they expressed their concern that such change would entail a risk of drawing political energy away from the important tasks of handling urgent geopolitical challenges facing Europe.

“We already have a Europe that works. We do not need to rush into institutional reforms in order to deliver results,” they said.

Doubling the EU’s firefighting capacity to help countries cope with increasingly devastating climate change impacts was another topic Ms von der Leyen tackled.

“These events are becoming more and more frequent and more and more intense… The EU will buy 10 light aircraft and three additional helicopters to complete its fleet,” von der Leyen said.

The official also paid tribute to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who died last week aged 96. Ms von der Leyen said the current crises reminded her of words the Queen once said: “We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”

Ursula von der Leyen will attend Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in London on Monday.

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