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Von der Leyen's clear message to Europeans - and a big question

Europe must show unity, otherwise Putin has won.

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Von der Leyen's clear message to Europeans - and a big question

Europe must show unity, otherwise Putin has won. That is the message from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to the Europeans. “This is not just a war between Russia and Ukraine. This is a war on our energy supplies, a war on our economy, a war on our values ​​and a war on our future," the politician said in her annual State of the Union address on Wednesday.

In her, as always, overly long speech, she warned that the coming months would not be easy and invoked the solidarity of Europeans: solidarity between the EU states in the energy crisis, solidarity with poorer households and companies that are suffering from the skyrocketing energy and the cost of living are groaning and, last but not least, solidarity with the Ukraine.

The Ukrainian President's wife Olena Zelenska listened in the hall. Von der Leyen had invited her and wanted to go to Kyiv with her immediately after the plenary session to meet the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

As soon as she entered the plenary hall, Ursula von der Leyen signaled that it would be a speech in exceptional times. She wore a yellow blazer and a blue blouse. The other commissioners also appeared in blue and yellow. They are the colors of Ukraine - but also of the EU.

Von der Leyen knows: Not the ambitious fight against climate change, not the procurement of vaccines in the Corona crisis, but the Ukraine war, the energy crisis and the EU's reaction to both could decide how her term of office is viewed. Because the EU, which has shown great unity towards Russia in recent months also because of von der Leyen's strong leadership, is facing a test.

Ironically, the Czech Republic, which is currently coordinating the negotiations between the member states for six months as the Council Presidency, is providing a foretaste of this. Tens of thousands took to the streets there because of the high energy costs and demanded an end to the sanctions against Russia.

If such poverty protests gain momentum there and in other countries and if Eurosceptic forces come to power in the upcoming national elections, as is currently threatening in Sweden, the unity of the EU in the face of Putin is endangered. The dispute over the oil embargo against Russia, which was riddled with exceptions and which von der Leyen had pushed, showed how fragile unity is when the attitude towards Russia gets to the bottom.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announces a visit to Kyiv. With her speech in front of the EU Parliament, she wants to show above all that the EU states stick together on all contentious issues, says Tobias Kaiser in Strasbourg. A clear signal goes out in the direction of Russia.

Source: WORLD

Von der Leyen also emphasized the measures with which the EU wants to support electricity consumers. The legislative proposals presented by their authority a few hours later provide, among other things, for skimming off 140 billion euros from producers who are currently generating particularly high sales of electricity from renewables and nuclear power.

The billions are intended to support particularly needy households and affected companies. Oil and gas companies should also give up part of their currently particularly high profits. This is not a panacea against high electricity prices, but it can help the states to finance their aid.

While these measures have been widely accepted, others have drawn criticism from national capitals. Von der Leyen also wants the EU countries to not only voluntarily reduce their total electricity consumption by ten percent. She also wants to oblige the EU states to reduce consumption by five percent with nationally defined measures in times of particularly high electricity consumption.

Less demand at peak times is considered the best countermeasure against high prices. However, there is resistance among the member states to the five percent target from Brussels. The discussion about the savings targets will show how united the EU is going into this winter. Von der Leyen has already postponed a price cap for Russian gas that she herself had called for because of too much resistance.

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