MEPs call for action on energy prices, enlarge Schengen to Romania and Bulgaria

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In a debate with Council and Commission on tomorrow’s EU summit, MEPs demanded lower energy prices and allowing Bulgaria and Romania to join the Schengen area.

On behalf of the Czech Presidency of the Council, Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek denounced the Russian military’s use of “winter as a weapon” in Ukraine. EU leaders will discuss how to increase collective pressure on Russia to end its war of aggression, he said, and will continue working on a coordinated approach to minimise the social and economic impact of the steep rise in energy prices.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen advocated a determined push forward of the clean transition in Europe. To achieve it, she proposed both increasing public investment and adapting EU rules on how it is spent, including via a sovereignty fund. The EU should also, she said, address the proposed Inflation Reduction Act, though she also stressed that “It is not the time for a trade war.”. President Von der Leyen predicted that “Putin’s war of aggression will fail (…) first, due to the enormous bravery of the Ukrainian people and, second, thanks to the international community’s remarkable unity.” “Let’s stay strong, united,” she concluded.

Many MEPs welcomed the use of the rule of law conditionality mechanism and called for an end to the use of unanimity by member states in the Council. They welcomed the Commission President’s proposals for the establishment of a sovereign fund to deal with measures taken by third countries.

On the issue of energy prices, MEPs criticised the Commission’s repeated use of Article 122, arguing these proposals get blocked in the Council and that procedures where legislative responsibility is shared between Parliament and Council would have allowed for progress. Most MEPs also called for much more decisive action to end exorbitant energy prices particularly affecting Europe’s most vulnerable households and small businesses. They also regretted the blocking by the Council of Bulgaria and Romania’s entry into the Schengen area.

Several MEPs also called for Parliament to reform its working methods in the wake of the ongoing corruption scandal, to protect the institution and uphold the credibility of the European project.

Watch the full debate here.