Metsola: Putin miscalculated resistance and strength of democratic order

European Parliament president says EU must respond to refugee influx with legislation that addresses largest humanitarian crisis since WWII

Roberta Metsola outside the European Council building, 24 March 2022
Roberta Metsola outside the European Council building, 24 March 2022

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola has told EU leaders that the next months will be crucial for member states to find solutions to the refugee influx from the Ukraine, as millions flee the Russian invasion.

Millions more are internally displaced and expect to make their way to Europe, with Metsola telling EU leaders they must do what is necessary to provide a future without fear for those arriving at our borders.

“We must lead this effort. The face of Europe we must show must be one of open hearts and open homes. A tangible expression of our European way: matching compassion with strength. 

“We must remain vigilant. Too many vulnerable people, mainly women and children, are at risk of exploitation or worse, and we must ensure the legal instruments are in place that allow us to identify who is at our borders.

“That means a renewed effort in pushing forward with legislation that is already on the table. We can find solutions, and in all my talks with so many of you, I have seen willingness and the understanding that the world has changed and therefore we must too.”

Metsola said Europe had led by example in terms of aid to Ukraine and in holding the Kremlin to account, with a global alliance that upholds the rules-based order.

“Putin miscalculated not only the courage and resistance of Ukraine, but the strength of the democratic order. He fundamentally mistook our debates for weakness and he will now pay an unprecedented cost. 

Ukraine, more than ever before, now looks to the European Union as its destination.

“We must respond with honesty but also with the hope that they desperately need. Of course, every country must have its own path, which can be a complex one, but the European future of Ukraine should not be in doubt. Just as we owe clarity to the Western Balkans.”
She also warned that Russia’s recent threats against Bosnia and Herzegovina leave no doubt that Putin is ready to continue his destructive campaign also in the Western Balkans. 

Metsola said Putin had accelerated the EU’s security debate “by a generation”.

“We are at risk and we must get closer together, raise our national defence contributions and use our common EU budget more efficiently. Let us look at what unspent funds remain and channel them towards the causes that need them the most,” she said.

In a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday 22 March, Metsola said Putin had to recognise that his invasion must came at the highest cost possible.

Energy prices across the EU are now rising, with Brussels seekingto ensure that the EU’s gas stocks are replenished to 80% of capacity ahead of next winter, through joint procurement mechanisms, mandatory strategic stocks and the inclusion of additional solidarity measures.

“We must urgently work to diversify our energy sources away from Russia. Our long-term target must be zero gas from the Kremlin.  We know this cannot happen overnight but this is the only long-term solution,” Metsola said.

“Hope is what Ukraine needs to sustain. Belief in Europe. Belief in pushing back against Putin’s massive war machine.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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