The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a series of proposals to curb the energy price spike that has hit Europe in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while stressing that the bloc’s solidarity with Kyiv would be “unshakeable.”
With Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska the guest of honor as she delivered her annual state of the union speech, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said sanctions on Russia were having a real impact and were there to stay.
“Never before has this Parliament debated the State of our Union with war raging on European soil,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, wearing blue and yellow – the colors of both Ukraine’s and the EU flags – told her annual address to the European Parliament.
“And I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail,” von der Leyen said, adding: “Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable.”
Von der Leyen, whose proposals to help European households and companies include skimming off windfall profits from energy companies and imposing cuts in electricity usage across the bloc, said the bloc was also 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 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 channeled to those who need it most,” she said.
While some in Europe, pointing at the huge spike in energy prices, have been arguing that the bloc’s sanctions on Russia were hitting the West more, von der Leyen said sanctions were hurting Russia.
“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.”
At a time when Ukraine is working on securing territory it has reclaimed from occupying Russian forces in a swift counter-offensive, von der Leyen said this was not the time for the bloc to soften its stance.
“This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement,” she said. “We are in it for the long haul.”
She said Europe had diversified away from Russian energy, but Moscow was still “actively manipulating” the market and gas prices have risen by more than 10 times compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.