© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Commission President and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party member Ursula von der Leyen arrives at the party congress in Hanover, Germany September 9, 2022. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/ File Photo
By Yves Herman and Gabriela Baczynska
STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a series of proposals to curb the spike in energy prices that rocked Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while stressing that solidarity of the EU with Kyiv would be “unshakeable”.
Energy prices and inflation surged across the 27 European Union countries as Moscow cut gas supplies in response to sanctions, prompting some, particularly on the far right, to argue that the sanctions hit the EU harder and should be eased.
But with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska as guest of honor as she delivered her annual State of the Union address to the European Parliament, von der Leyen said the sanctions had a real impact on Russia and were here to stay.
“Now is the time for us to show determination, not appeasement,” said von der Leyen, who was due to travel to Kyiv later Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “We’re here 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, dressed in blue and yellow – the colors of the Ukrainian and European flags.
Von der Leyen, whose proposals to help European households and businesses include imposing reductions in electricity consumption across the bloc, said the bloc was working to protect households and businesses.
“Making ends meet is becoming a source of anxiety for millions of businesses and households,” she said, proposing measures to cap revenue from low-cost electricity generators and force fuel companies fossil fuels to share in the benefits they derive from soaring energy prices.
“In these times, it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits through war and on the backs of our consumers. In these times, profits must be shared and channeled to those who need them most,” she said.
At a time when Ukraine is working to secure territory it reclaimed from occupying Russian forces in a swift counteroffensive, von der Leyen said now was not the time for the bloc to ease up. his position.
“The Russian financial sector is on life support,” she said, adding that nearly a thousand international companies have left the country. “The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to fix their military hardware because they’ve run out of semiconductors. Russian industry is in tatters.”
She said Europe had diversified away from Russian energy, but Moscow was “still actively manipulating” the market and gas prices had risen more than 10 times compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
Beyond the war in Ukraine, von der Leyen said Moldova, Georgia and the Western Balkan countries are also part of “our family” and the future of the EU.
Paying tribute to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who died last week at the age of 96, von der Leyen said the current crisis reminded him of the words the Queen once spoke: “We will succeed – and that Success will belong to each of us.”