"Check against delivery"
Thank you, Madam President, dear Roberta,
Almost a year ago, on the night of 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine and war was back in Europe. That night our thoughts and prayers were with our Ukrainian friends. We followed the news from the Donbas and Kyiv with unbearable tension. Would they be able to withstand the onslaught of the Russian invaders? Today we know, yes, they would. One year on, Putin's perfidious plans continue to be foiled by the brave Ukrainian nation. One year on, Russia has completely alienated itself from Europe, its most important economic relationship, and is isolated on the world stage. One year on, this Parliament welcomed the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as the true hero he is. And one year on, Putin's imperial fantasies have woken up to a bleak reality, while Ukraine's dreams are stronger than ever. And they will prevail.
What a difference one year of unity and resolve can make. In the early hours of 24 February, when Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, a whole continent held its breath. Some predicted that Ukraine would fall in a matter of days. But instead, the legendary bravery of the Ukrainian people stunned the world. Their fierce resistance at the gates of Kyiv. The civilians who stopped Russian tanks in the south. The counter-offensive of Ukraine's armed forces in Kharkiv and Kherson. We can never match the sacrifice and the bravery of the Ukrainian people. But we can stand firmly by their side. And that is what we did. A whole continent has mobilised. From the volunteers of Warsaw station, who welcomed Ukrainians fleeing Putin's bombs, to all citizens and companies, which have cut their electricity consumption. Together with you, Honourable Members, we have focused on three main goals.
First, to support Ukraine's resistance against the invader unwaveringly. Second, to undermine Russia's war machine. Third, to build Ukraine´s European future together. These three strands of action have guided us over the last year and will continue to guide us in the months to come.
Let me begin with our continued support for Ukraine's resistance. Since the war began, the European Union has provided Ukraine with EUR 67 billion in economic, humanitarian and military support: from budget support to aid for a rapid recovery, from energy to military capabilities, from humanitarian aid to aid for refugees. All of it a material contribution to Ukraine's war effort. Putin wanted the collapse of the Ukrainian State. We have helped Ukraine to stay operational, even during its darkest hours. Europe has galvanised Ukraine's resistance, and we will continue to do so. We will ensure a steady flow of financial aid throughout 2023. The first instalment of this EUR 18 billion package has already arrived in Ukraine. Our support will continue to be stable and predictable, every month. This is what Europe promised. And we have kept our promise.
Europe is also supporting Ukrainian firms and workers, who are still operating despite the war. To do so, we have harnessed the power of our single market. We have integrated our economies, brought our people together, twinned our towns and cities and synchronised our electricity grids. Our solidarity lanes allow Ukraine to export its goods to the whole world. This has already brought in EUR 20 billion in revenue for Ukrainian firms during the war. And we can do more.
During our visit to Kyiv, we agreed on a roadmap to further improve Ukraine's access to our single market. Putin wanted to shatter Ukraine's European dream. Today Ukraine is moving towards the European Union more quickly and more decisively than ever.
At the same time, we are weakening Russia's ability to maintain its war machine. This is my second point. With nine packages of sanctions in place, the Russian economy is going backwards. And to keep up this strong pressure, we are proposing a tenth package of measures. With new trade bans and technology export controls to Russia. This package is worth a total of EUR 11 billion. We propose, among other things export restrictions on multiple electronic components used in Russian armed systems – such as drones, missiles, helicopters. But there are also hundreds of Iranian-made drones used by Russia on the battlefields in Ukraine. These Iranian made drones kill Ukrainian civilians – this is atrocious! So for the first time we are also proposing to sanction Iranian entities including those linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. It is our duty to sanction them, and confront Iran about the supply of drones and the transfer of know-how to build production sites in Russia.
Putin assumed that our support for Ukraine would not last. He thought it would be easy to hold Europe to ransom, because of our dependence on Russian oil and gas. But he was wrong there too. Today, one year after the war began, he has already lost the energy war he started. We have repositioned ourselves, thanks to reliable partners, and the results can be seen. Russia's income from sales of gas to Europe has shrunk by two thirds. The oil price cap means that Russia is losing EUR 160 million in revenue every day. Gas prices in Europe are lower today than before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Europe is now investing in clean energies and energy independence as never before. In expanding renewable energies, we are breaking one record after another. Last year, for the first time, we generated more electricity from wind and solar than from gas. With European unity and a smart energy policy, we have withstood Russian pressure and freed ourselves from our energy dependency. Our economy today is performing significantly better than forecast and, at the beginning of the week, we were able to revise our growth predictions upwards. By contrast, the Kremlin is having to sell gold reserves in order to plug the gaps left by the lack of oil revenue. Putin's attempt to blackmail Europe using energy has been an abject failure.
President Zelenskyy has often spoken to me about what keeps the people of Ukraine going amid the horrors of war. Despite the massacres in Bucha und Irpin. What gives them hope, even after the bombing of Mariupol und Dnipro? It is the firm conviction that the future of their country and of their children lies in the European Union. And that is the third task facing us – to build a bridge of hope for the people of Ukraine, from the horrors of war, which they are experiencing today, to a better future in our midst.
Rebuilding Ukraine and its progress on the path towards our Union go hand in hand. You have heard it from President Zelenskyy in this hemicycle. I have seen it with my College in Kyiv. And colleagues at the Commission confirm it every day: Ukrainians are making tangible progress – while fighting a war. They know that accession to our Union is a merits-based process. They have passed legislative reforms that others thought would take years. They are making this progress because they are striving for Europe with all their heart and soul. Ukraine is a nation defined not only by its history and heritage. It is a nation defined by its dreams. And Europe is one of these dreams.
Let us honour these dreams by standing up for Ukraine for as long as it takes. So that one day the representatives of the Ukrainian people will have their place in this very House.
Long live Europe.
- Publication date
- 15 February 2023
- Representation in Cyprus