European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has shaken up the image of the office, renowned Politico magazine has said in a piece commemorating her first 100 days in the role.
Metsola’s win was historic in more ways than one; it made her of the highest-ranking Maltese person in the EU, the youngest ever EP President, the first Maltese national to hold the position and the third woman to ever become President.
Metsola’s term has so far been characterised by her handling of the war in Ukraine which broke out just five weeks after her term started, something which the interview highlighted.
When asked what prompted her surprise decision to visit the war-torn city of Kyiv, just five weeks after the invasion started, Metsola described it as “a difficult decision to take at the time”.
Metsola revealed that she had been in contact “officially and unofficially online and through WhatsApp” in the run-up to her visit to Ukraine, so when he invited her personally, she said, “I didn’t hesitate”.
After a 13-hour train ride, during which she was accompanied by Ukrainian special forces, Metsola was apparently met with “empty roads, many checkpoints”, completely different to the once-bustling, lively streets that Kyiv had been characterised by before the war.
However, despite the desolate urban desert she saw upon her arrival, Metsola was surprised by what she saw when she enter the Verkhovna Rada – the Ukrainian parliament.
“It was full of life, hundreds of members conducting politics, meetings, drafting political statements … You could tell that they were fighting for their country … and that was what struck me,” Metsola said.
The interview also gave insight into the details of her meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Zelenskyy was apparently very upfront about what his country needed. Metsola said, “his demands were clear: I need logistical help. I need financial help, and I need political solidarity afterwards”.
Metsola apparently offered to put Zelenskyy in contact with non-EU countries that were being affected by the reduction in grain exports. Before the war, Russia was the world’s top exporter of grain and Ukraine was the sixth.
She also said that the European Parliament indicated that it would be prepared to back a full embargo on Russian gas. The European Parliament already voted in favour of a full embargo on Russian imports of oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy at the beginning of this month.
However, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell says that no EU agreement has been reached on an embargo.
Another request being pushed by Ukraine is its accession to the EU. Metsola, apparently, was a bit vaguer in her answer when asked about this. She seemed to imply that Ukraine will eventually join the EU, noting that 97 percent of Ukrainians want to join.
However, Metsola acknowledged that might take longer than Ukraine hope to join the EU. “We also owe an answer to the Western Balkan countries that have been waiting for a long time, and we have Moldova and Georgia at this stage”.
The interview wrapped up with Metsola being asked how the EU could become more democratic, Metsola hinted that the Parliament should play a bigger role in deciding who runs the European Commission.
She said that she looks at the 2024 MEP elections “as the possibility for us to identify where and who should be voted” to lead the EU”.
“I think that we have a golden opportunity to send a message on 9th May to set the stage for what comes next,” she said. “We will immediately trigger a process, which will follow up on the conference.” On 9th May the Conference on the Future of Europe is set to wrap up in Strasbourg.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
What do you think of Metsola’s first 100 days in office?