“In order to negotiate peace with Russia, you must first stop the bombs”


He does not rule out a nuclear conflict and predicts a “difficult” winter despite reducing dependence on Russian gas

When she took office as President of the European Parliament in January of this year, replacing the late David Sassoli, Roberta Metsola (Malta, 1979) could not imagine herself facing a war on the continent and an energy and economic crisis. He receives this newspaper in Santander, where he participated in the ‘Global Youth Leadership Forum’, during his first official visit to Spain. It shows a tough stance on Russia and avoids controversies with the United States, which it denies that the European Union (EU) is “following”.

– Do you see an end to the escalation in the war?

– What we see is an escalation on the Russian side. We saw bombing of the main cities of Ukraine, including Kiev; the arbitrary murder of women, children, young people… We must not forget that we are dealing with a brutal, illegal and unjustified invasion.

– Has the European Union left the diplomatic route? Josep Borrell and Ursula Von der Leyen have made harsh statements with a belligerent tone.

– Peace can only be obtained with true peace, and right now we have bombs being dropped on a country that is fighting for the values ​​we defend. We are in an extremely difficult situation. Putin thought he could take Kiev in three or four days, he was trying to make sure that NATO would never expand… What was the result? That the EU, the G7 and NATO have come together like never before. Why? Because it shouldn’t be acceptable for one country to invade another. It is unacceptable for territorial integrity to be called into question. The fundamental values ​​for which Ukraine is fighting are also ours.

– Aren’t they looking for peace negotiations?

– We are unable to do that today, with the bombs falling in one direction. In order to sit at a negotiating table, the bombs must stop.

– Are you afraid of a nuclear conflict?

– It’s always a concern. I’d say our ‘mistake’ didn’t take this concern seriously enough. Our friends from neighboring countries of Russia warned us that it was a growing danger. That Putin didn’t stop in 2008, nor in 2014, and it looks like he won’t now. Without sounding alarming, I believe that all dangers should be high on our agenda.

– One point of criticism of the EU is that it restricts itself to following the United States…

– The EU has shown resilience during the pandemic and has taken the lead out of the health crisis with, for example, the joint procurement of vaccines. Now the war and the energy crisis have shown that we must continue to act together. But I would also like to say that the fact that the United States has joined us and that we are acting with the G7 partners in the application of sanctions is extremely important to us. All this can only show leadership. And a personal reflection. Last year, when we saw the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, I told myself that the EU could no longer think that another actor would act for it in a crisis. We’ve done it too long. Not anymore.

– But the United States has taken over the European gas market. Couldn’t that be counterproductive for the EU in the long run?

– I would rather focus on a convergence of alliances than on a struggle between countries. Yes, decisions have a price. Yes, we are in a situation where we need to lower the price of our invoices, the US is cheaper. Yes, we need to find economic but also energy solutions that address the pressing economic impact on our citizens. But I wouldn’t get into the discussion about whose fault it is. I would say we are all doing our part to defeat Russia and let Ukraine win the war.

– What would you say to those families who have seen bills grow like never before?

– That is our biggest challenge today. Bills are sky high, interest rates are rising rapidly and inflation is in double digits. At the same time, youth unemployment is setting records. What we need to do is understand this in the first place and not think that our citizens have to foot the bill. We, as the European Parliament, look at the economic environment and see where we can allocate more resources to help our families and businesses. And for this reason we have intervened in the market, we have given direct subsidies to the most vulnerable societies…

– Will winter be difficult?

– That’s possible. But we’ve moved faster than we thought by storing gas and building reserves of liquefied natural gas. We conclude agreements with third countries that we did not have before. We have reduced dependence on Russian gas to 9% since the beginning of the war. But in the long run, we need to build new infrastructure, new gas pipelines that we didn’t think were possible. Then we can say that we really tackled the problem.

– Will the gas price in the EU be capped?

– We have long asked, in line with Spain and Portugal, but also with other countries, to decouple gas from the electricity price. We are also talking about a mechanism that can be more adjustable compared to the German system of the TTF. That is difficult, because it causes a lot of instability in many governments. We must have the courage to recognize that only Europe, not the Member States alone, can provide the solution.

– He has been in office for nine months. What balance does it make?

– On January 18, I did not think that we would have a war and an energy crisis like the current one. We expected a period of economic recovery and growth. But that also means the real test is now. I must be able to repay the trust given to me as the first female President of this Parliament, with the responsibility to hold the reins of an institution of 705 Members and to give the right answer to what our citizens expect of us.

– Does David Sassoli’s legacy weigh?

– I have inherited an exceedingly great inheritance. I promised David that I would continue on his path to remain steadfast in our principles and values.

Source: La Verdad


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