Addressing the EU Ambassadors’ Conference, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola spoke about the importance to always defend our European way of democracy, rights and liberties.
Welcome to the European Parliament at what is a critical moment for our European project.
We are facing challenges on multiple fronts – a war on our continent, a disinformation and propaganda campaign that uses tools we created against us, political instability in different key regions of the world and rising inflation and dwindling energy supplies that are causing turmoil.
Some of the threats we face are existential. Which is why our response to Russia’s illegal, brutal and unjustified invasion of sovereign Ukraine must be steadfast, strong and unshakeable. Any sign of disunity among us will be exploited immediately.
The geopolitical sands shifted long before 24th February, but perhaps we looked away from the signs for a little too long. Perhaps we were comforted by the idea that we could lull Russia into economic and energy ties that will ensure peace. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it is not real. The only thing we can do is learn the lessons and ensure we never repeat them.
This invasion is not only about territory. Nor is it only about Russia and Ukraine. This is about two very different ways of life. About whether multilateralism can still respond to the threats of unilateral aggression. About whether our way of liberal democracy is resilient enough to withstand the pressure of large armies. About whether open markets and social safety nets are here to stay. About whether our commitment to equality and the rule of law remains even when under attack. About whether a rules-based order can push back against the concept of ‘might is right’.
It is about fundamentally different ways that are now in confrontation with each other. My answer, our stand, is an emphatic defence of our European way. Always. Democracy is not weakness. Rights and liberties are goals not obstacles.
Europe must adapt to this new world. Together, we must face a world that is changing, that is different and that pushes Europe to change with it. Putin thought he could break us, but instead he strengthened our resolve.
The illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories after a series of sham referenda, and the latest indiscriminate shelling of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities are just two of the last moves hoping that we blink first. We cannot. Their escalation must be met with our willingness to go further, to help more.
Ukrainians need to be able to defend themselves and us by extension. In this new, more dangerous phase of war, they need the heavy armour and defence systems that will allow them to survive the onslaught. Because only if Ukraine is able to defend itself will we ever be able to be in a position to push for peace – a real peace, not one forced through blackmail. In Europe we have long learned and understood that appeasement did not work, it does not work, and will never work.
So with our push for peace, there must also be a push for justice. A push for accountability for the numerous, documented, war crimes committed on European soil.
Since the beginning of Russia’s aggression, the European Union has approved an unprecedented €7.2 billion in financial aid to Ukraine and adopted 8 packages of far-reaching sanctions to impede the financing of Putin’s war machine. We have provided €2.5 billion in support of Ukrainian armed forces and critical military support will continue to be given.
I am proud that the European Parliament has been at the forefront of efforts – even practically speaking – by opening its premises to the Ukrainian Solidarity Hub and by sending truckloads of IT equipment and protective gear to the Verkhovna Rada. But perhaps our most significant decision has been to grant Ukraine – and Moldova – EU candidate status. This status gives the Ukrainian people a clear European perspective and a path for development; even if we know that it will take time and that it will not be easy. The European Parliament is currently working with the Verkhovna Rada to adopt legislation needed in order to bring lawmakers to vote on the Acquis.
We have also reached out to 160 Parliaments to rally them towards Ukraine’s cause. This network continues to facilitate President Zelenskyy’s ability to address Parliaments around the world so that he can give a first-hand account of the situation on the ground. This will continue to prove crucial to ensure that war fatigue does not set-in.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe has done a lot. But there is no time for complacency. We will be called upon to do yet more. This means working closely with our like-minded partners, strengthening already existing links and partnerships, and where possible, pursuing new alliances.
We have to work together. We need to pool our resources and work towards common objectives – and here I am talking about all EU Institutions and Member States as one single Team Europe. Of course, we all have different assets and ways to achieve our common objectives but we must keep pulling the same rope. The Parliament is not only about adopting legislation or financial packets of aid. MEPs reflect the debates in Member States and each and every single Member help bring the message of Europe home. This is critical. We have seen this more than ever since the 24th of February.
This House remains in continuous dialogue with office-holders and parliamentarians across the globe. Our Committees send Members to high-level multilateral meetings and organise thematic missions to key third countries. We work on a daily basis to consolidate our partnerships, build alliances and keep dialogues of communication open across the world. Through targeted programmes for parliaments, our aim is to continue supporting democracies and democratic political cultures and societies in our neighbourhood and beyond. Multilateralism is the only sustainable way to safeguard peace across the world.
Today you will discuss how to improve our cooperation so that we can effectively respond to current challenges and improve the resilience of democracies worldwide.
It is clear that EU delegations, representations and missions have a very important role to play here. Many of you work in environments marked by propaganda and disinformation campaigns, which pose additional challenges. A battle of narratives rages on all continents, where our intentions are often misrepresented and our role is challenged.
We need to join efforts and amplify our message through our respective networks – both at bilateral and multilateral level. We need to get better at highlighting the European Union’s engagement and investments to the benefit of all citizens across the globe. We also need to do more to counter malign actors that seek to undermine our joint EU action by pitting us against each other.
And here, let me thank you for your unwavering commitment to our Union’s values and for the support you give to this House and its members. The impressive work that you do on the ground truly warrants special recognition.
Today more than ever we need to work together in a concerted manner, not to duplicate our efforts but rather to reinforce our common message. I hope today’s session will give you concrete insights into our global engagement, help open new avenues for our cooperation and give us the renewed impetus that we need in these extraordinarily challenging times.”