[WATCH] Metsola: We face existential threat if we don’t face down Putin’s war machine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses European Parliament plenary in debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Roberta Metsola presided the European Parliament debate on the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Roberta Metsola presided the European Parliament debate on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola told MEPs in a debate on the Russian invasion in Ukraine that Europe was facing an existential threat, as Ukranians were making the ultimate sacrifice to delay a column of tanks entering the country.

“Our European response was on display over the last painful days. This must be our “Whatever it Takes” moment,” she said, referring to neighbouring EU states accepting refugees, implementing massive sanctions, and providing weapons to Ukraine.

“We have declared that Russian aircraft and oligarchs’ private jets are no longer welcome in our open skies. We have moved for Russia to be disconnected from the SWIFT system. We have banned Kremlin propaganda tools,” she said.

“The European Parliament has a long, proud, history of being a thorn in the side of autocrats and in that spirit, I will seek a ban on any representative of the Kremlin from entering European Parliament premises. Aggressors and warmongers have no place in the House of democracy.”

Metsola said Europe will stand up and face down Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

“We will support the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction and investigation of war crimes in Ukraine. We will hold him accountable... just as we will hold Lukashenko.”

Metsola also said Europe had to redouble efforts to diversify energy systems that are not reliant on Kremlin gas, stop the sale of passports to Putin’s oligarchs and bar access to their superyachts, but also to move towards a “real security and defence Union.”

“We have shown the last week that it is possible and desirable – and more than anything it is necessary.”

Zelenskyy addresses plenary in live speech

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the European Parliament, in a live remote speech where he called for the EU to allow it to become a full member state.

Zelenskyy called upon the Parliament to show their European credentials by not abandoning Ukraine. “Do prove that you indeed are Europeans, make us qual with the other countries in the Union, as is the dream of Ukraine… we are at a minimum exactly the same as you are”.

“I’m glad Europe was unified in the condemnation of Russian aggression and the sanctions they are levying against the Kremlin. However the last few days have been hard. With cruise missile strikes on Kharkiv and Freedom Square… can you imagine?”

Zelenksyy said that two revolutions, a war and five days of full-scale invasion were a lot to pay for Ukrainians.

“I don't read off the paper, because paper fades – we’re dealing with killed people, with real life. I believe that today we’re giving lives for rights, freedoms values, we are giving away our best people our strongest.”

Zelenskyy said he remained confident in the resolve and strength of the Ukrainian people to fight and win, and defiant in the face of the odds. “Nobody is going to break us, we are strong, we are Ukrainians.”

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said: “This is the first time we are seeing a country invade another in Europe, it makes me sick when we look at the historical analogies. Instead of frightening us this should galvanize us.”

He described this moment as the birth of a “Geopolitical Europe”.

“This is the first time we are seeing a country invade another in Europe. It makes me sick when we look at the historical analogies. Instead of frightening us this should galvanize us… This reminds us that evil, tragedy and war never fade away…

“More than ever Europe must think strategically about itself, its environment and the world. This is not a luxury anymore, we need to think about retaliation and counter attack.”

Borrell said that any peace process requires two interlocutor, but for war there need only be one aggressor. “We need to increase our deterrence capacity in order to prevent war…It is clear that our deterrent hasn't been strong enough to stop mr Putins aggression.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission said this was a moment of truth for Europe. “This is a clash between the rule of law and the rule of the gun, between democracy and autocracy… How we respond will determine the future of the international environment.”

She said that Europe must be there in the weeks and months to come, not just now for the Ukrainian refugees. “That’s why we are proposing to activate a temporary protection mechanism so that they have access to schools, shelter and medical treatment…we need to do that now.” 

“For the first time ever we are using the EU budget to deliver weapons to a country that is under attack. There is €500 million for the European peace facility. As a first batch we will match this with another €500 million to help the country and the refugees.”

Manfred Weber, EPP leader, welcomed Zelenskyy’s ‘questions’ to the EU, saying Ukraine belonged to the European Union.

“Putin represents the opposite of our convictions: autocracy, brutality, and imperial ambitions.

“We have to speed the energy transition up as Von der Leyen said. We are together bound to the United States with Joe Biden. We have to use this moment to have a new free trade agreement with the US.”

S&D chair Iratxe García Pérez said Putin’s war against Ukraine marked the beginning of new stage in Europe and the world. “These are historic times and we need historic decisions… financial and military support to Ukraine, disconnecting Russian banks from the SWIFT platform, the activation of the international protection directive to assist Ukrainian refugees and banning the Kremlin’s media machine are all key steps as part of a qualitative leap in our capacity to respond.”

And the Greens co-chair Philippe Lamberts commended the people of Ukraine. “Your resistance is a wakeup call to all democrats around the world, without the will to fight democracy will fall.

“To your aggressor I say: your lies to justify war cannot and will not remain unchallenged… Ukraine is not ruled by Nazis. On the contrary, its legitimately elected president stems from a family who was bloodied in the Holocaust.”

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