Strasbourg 4 May 2022
In a debate with French Minister Delegate Klinkert and President von der Leyen, MEPs said internal EU unity and solidarity is crucial now and for the future reconstruction of Ukraine.
On Wednesday morning, MEPs discussed the social and economic consequences for the EU of Russia’s war in Ukraine. They applauded the sixth packet of sanctions against Russia and the Ukraine recovery package, both outlined by Commission President von der Leyen. MEPs underlined the need to also support EU citizens and businesses affected by the war, calling for unity among member states. They also demanded support for countries facing the brunt of the effects of the war, whether as a consequence of their dependence on Russian gas and oil, or because of their hosting of a large number of Ukrainian refugees.
French Delegate Minister for Integration Brigitte Klinkert and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen opened the debate. You can watch their opening statements here.
Most MEPs stressed the need to defeat Putin but also underlined that the best way to do this was to minimise the costs faced by the EU itself. This would allow unity to be kept among member states, cushion the effects on households and businesses, and allow the EU to better help Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction. MEPs underlined the plight of those in the EU having to choose between buying food or heating their houses and also asked the Commission to consider on a case-by-case basis whether to go ahead with new legislation that could add additional burdens on already-struggling businesses. You can watch the first round of MEP interventions here.
You can watch the full debate here.
S&D: We welcome new sanctions package and call for an urgent plan to cope with the economic and social impact, says Iratxe García
Following the Commission’s announcement of a sixth package of sanctions against Putin’s regime, the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament back this new step to weaken Russia’s capacity to finance its war against Ukraine.
During a plenary debate on how to reinforce the EU to face the social and economic consequences of the war and sanctions, the S&D Group leader, Iratxe García MEP, said:
“Today we need a wide-reaching and urgent economic scheme to combat the rises in poverty, inequality, unemployment and the loss of purchasing power as a result of rampant inflation caused by rising fuel and food prices.
“We can’t tolerate that large energy multinationals obtain extraordinary windfall profits while the most vulnerable households and SMEs face the consequences of the war. We should have learned from the financial crisis and must extend the Stability and Growth Pact’s escape clause to invest in new technologies, social justice, stronger defence and a carbon-free future.
“The next step in our sanctions should be a complete embargo on oil and gas from Russia. We have supplied Ukraine with €1.5 billion worth of weapons, while we have paid Russia €63 billion in fuel since the start of the war. Without the income from gas and oil, Russia would have practically lost the war by now.
“To remain firm in our support for Ukraine, we must strengthen our determination and acknowledge the asymmetric effects of this crisis, sharing the efforts and pooling the costs. Strengthening our union also means putting an end to a European Union of first-class and second-class citizens, thus incorporating Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen area and protecting our values in a true area of freedom, security and justice.”
Renew Europe: Sixth Russian sanction package is progress but EU must go further
Renew Europe welcomes the announcement of the sixth sanction package against Russia, but recalls the demand of the European Parliament for a total embargo on the import of Russian coal, oil, gas, nuclear material and the exclusion of all Russian financial institutions and banks from SWIFT.
We express our disappointment at reports of possible exemptions considered for some Member States, when intra-EU solidarity could provide solutions, as these undermine EU coherence, when unity is our greatest strength. We repeat our calls for stronger sanctions targeting Putin’s enablers, in line with the lists proposed by Alexei Navalny. We welcome the President of the Commission’s announcement of the development of a new RRF type fund for the recovery of Ukraine.
Stéphane Séjourné, President of Renew Europe said:
“This sanction package is progress but the EU can still be more ambitious, in line with the European Parliament’s demands. European unity is our strength; it is regrettable that the Hungarian Government is playing for another team. Russia’s actions show we need a new recovery plan to make our Union more resilient, autonomous and free.”
Renew Europe warns that EU countries have spent four times more on Russian fossil fuels than aid to Ukraine.
Luis Garicano MEP, Vice President of Renew Europe, said:
“I am happy that the EU is finally moving on an oil embargo, but this is far short of what this Parliament wants; we passed a resolution a month ago asking for an immediate full embargo on oil, coal and gas. While the debate goes on, the EU has sent to Russia 50 billion euros on energy imports since the war started – four times more than our aid to Ukraine. By the time the oil embargo is executed, Russia will have received over a 100 billion euros more in revenue.”
“We are now in the worst of all worlds. Consumers are suffering from the high prices but Russian earnings still grow as the higher prices more than compensate for the lower volume.”
More support needed against negative effects of sanctions imposed on Russia, says ECR Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto
Today, the European Parliament debated the social and economic impact of the war in Ukraine in the presence of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Co-Chairman Raffaele Fitto spoke on behalf of the ECR Group.
According to Fitto, the Union must act to mitigate the negative impact on European societies of the sanctions it has imposed on Russia.
Mr Fitto’s full statement reads:
Thank you, Minister, Madam President of the Commission,
I listened very carefully to your speech, and I think that this exchange of ideas to find immediate and rapid solutions to the development of the conflict is very useful and important.
There is no doubt that the path being pursued is one that must be pursued decisively with regard to the attitude towards Russia, not only of condemnation but also of concrete action.
So the sanctions package is undoubtedly the decisive element on which to work in order to achieve results; but the sanctions package is also a fundamental prerequisite for the reactions and choices that must be made in Europe.
We know that they are not very popular in our continent, and that in some countries they risk creating major problems. And it is clear that important responses are needed, and so the long-term objective of reconstruction in Ukraine is certainly fundamental, and the Commission is right to concern itself with it, but today we must also come to terms with the objective situation.
Firstly, between February and March, European exports fell by 6 per cent. A strong response is needed. The compensation fund – we have an example, the Brexit model used in that direction – can be a solution, because sanctions do not operate in the same way in all countries. There are countries that suffer more than others.
Secondly, structural choices – as mentioned by Ms De Lange in relation to the Fit for 55 issue. Is it possible that we are not changing anything from what we imagined before the war? Is the war not an event that should make us reflect on the need to change the approach that the Commission and the European institutions have taken? I think so, and therefore implementation times and the overly ambitious targets of the Fit for 55 are a decisive element on which we should start reflecting in order to change these choices.
Then, another concrete proposal, which goes hand in hand with the need for a response on the major economic issues and therefore on the stability pact – a debate that is being postponed but which should be fundamental to accompany the measures that need to be taken forward. This is the issue that we raised yesterday in the debate with Italian Prime Minister Draghi.
Article 21 of the Recovery and Resilience Facility says very clearly that, in extraordinary cases, these instruments – which are very important resources – can be modified according to current needs. Before the war, the Commission included an article in the regulation indicating the need to modify the national plans in order to adapt them to new needs, and I think that this is the time to take note of this and modify the choices in this direction to be able to devise appropriate solutions in this sense.
I will close with a final reference. If we want to be effective on sanctions, we must avoid diverging from one another on two fundamental elements: joint purchases and the cap on gas purchase prices. We need a unified response on this; differentiation does not help, and risks weakening the overall strategy we are putting in place.