roberta metzola | president of the european parliament
He does not rule out a nuclear conflict and predicts a “difficult” winter despite reducing dependence on Russian gas
When she took office as President of the European Parliament in January of this year, replacing the late David Sassoli, Roberta Metsola (Malta, 1979) could not imagine that she would have to face a war on the continent and an energy and economic crisis. She receives this newspaper in Santander, where she has participated in the ‘Global Youth Leadership Forum’, in her first official visit to Spain. She shows a hard position with Russia and avoids entering into controversy with the United States, of which she denies that the European Union (EU) is “following”.
– Do you see an end to the escalation in war?
– What we are seeing is an escalation on the Russian side. We saw bombings against the main cities of the Ukraine, including kyiv; the indiscriminate murder of women, children, youth… We cannot forget that we are facing a brutal, illegal and unjustified invasion.
– Has the European Union abandoned the diplomatic route? Josep Borrell and Ursula Von der Leyen have made harsh declarations with a bellicose tone.
– Peace can only be obtained with true peace, and at the moment what we have are bombs being dropped on a country that is fighting for the values that we defend. We are in an extremely difficult situation. Putin thought that he could take kyiv in three or four days, he tried to make sure that NATO would never be enlarged… What has been the consequence? That the EU, the G7 and NATO have come together like never before. Why? Because it should not be acceptable for one country to invade another. It is not acceptable that the territorial integrity is questioned. The fundamental values for which Ukraine fights are also ours.
– Aren’t they looking for peace negotiations?
– We are not in a position for that today, when the bombs fall in one direction. In order for us to sit down at a negotiating table, the bombs must stop.
– Do you fear a nuclear conflict?
– It is always a concern. I would say our ‘mistake’ was not taking this concern seriously enough. Our friends from countries neighboring Russia warned us that it was a growing danger. That Putin did not stop in 2008, nor in 2014, and it does not seem that he is going to do so now. Without sounding alarmist, I believe that all dangers should be considered high on our agenda.
– One criticism leveled at the EU is that it limits itself to following the United States…
– The EU has shown resilience during the pandemic and led the way out of the health crisis with the joint purchase of vaccines, for example. Now, the war and the energy crisis have shown that we must continue to act together. But I would also say that the fact that the United States has aligned with us and that we act jointly with the G7 partners in the application of sanctions is extremely important to us. All of this can only demonstrate leadership. And a personal reflection. Last year, when we saw the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, I told myself that the EU could no longer think that another actor would act for it in a crisis. We did it for too long. Not anymore.
“Putin wants to avoid NATO enlargement, but has only managed to unite it more”
“We must build new gas pipelines to solve the energy crisis”
– But the United States has taken over the European gas market. Can’t that be counterproductive for the EU in the long run?
– I would prefer to focus on a convergence of alliances rather than a fight between countries. Yes, decisions have a price. Yes, we are in a situation where we need to lower the price of our invoices, the US ones are cheaper. Yes, we have to find economic but also energy solutions that allow us to address the pressing economic impact on our citizens. But I wouldn’t get into the debate about whose fault it is. I would say that we are all doing our part to defeat Russia and for Ukraine to win the war.
– What would you say to those families who have seen bills grow like never before?
– That is our biggest challenge today. Bills are sky high, interest rates are rising rapidly, and inflation is in double digits. And at the same time youth unemployment sets records. What we need to do is, first of all, understand all this, and not think that our citizens should pay the whole bill. We, as the European Parliament, look at the economic environment and see where we can devote more resources to help our families and businesses. And for this reason we have intervened in the market, we have given direct subsidies to the most vulnerable societies…
– Is winter going to be difficult?
– It can be, yes. But we have gone faster than we thought storing gas and building reserves of Liquefied Natural Gas. We are closing agreements with third countries that we did not have before. We have reduced dependence on Russian gas to 9% since the start of the war. But in the long term, we must build new infrastructure, new gas pipelines that we did not think possible. That is when we can say that we have really addressed the problem.
– Will the price of gas in the EU be capped?
– We have asked for it for a long time, in line with Spain and Portugal, as well as other countries, to decouple gas from the price of electricity. We are also talking about a mechanism that can be more adjustable compared to the German system of the TTF. It is difficult, because this is creating a lot of instability in many governments. We must have the courage to recognize that only Europe, and not the Member States on their own, can provide the solution.
– He has been in office for nine months. What balance does he make?
– On January 18 I did not imagine that we would have a war and an energy crisis like the current one. We expected a period of economic recovery and growth. But that also means that the real test is now. I must be able to repay the trust that was given to me as the first female President of this Parliament, with the responsibility of holding the reins of an institution of 705 members and giving the appropriate response to what our citizens expect of us.
– Does the legacy of David Sassoli weigh?
– I have inherited an extraordinarily large legacy. I promised David that he would continue on his path of being firm in our principles and values.
#order #negotiate #peace #Russia #stop #bombs
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