European Parliament President Roberta Metsola has said the EU is at war with Russia and called for tighter and more forceful sanctions against the nation, including a full ban on gas imports.
In an interview from Strasbourg, Lovin Malta asked the top Maltese politician whether she agrees with recent moves to exclude Russians from the sporting and cultural world, including Wimbledon’s ban on Russian tennis players and the Cannes Film Festival’s ban on Russian delegates.
Her response was blunt.
“The point is we are at war,” she said. “We are in a situation where one regime has invaded a territorially independent and sovereign country. What will our response be, as Europe and as countries like the UK, NATO countries, the US and Canada?”
“Are we going to be intimidated and allow ourselves to be blackmailed and threatened? If the answer is no, which it should be, then we must not stop at making sure our response is as strong as possible.”
“That means if we continue giving shelter to people who have for too long benefitted from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime, then we would once again not only be failing our citizens and the brave Ukrainians who are fighting this war but also those Russian citizens who look to see that their country becomes led democratically, something we’ve been waiting for too long to happen.”
Asked to provide historical examples of the efficacy of sanctions as a political strategy, Metsola harked back to decisions taken by Western leaders at the end of the Cold War to help former Soviet countries become independent and democratic.
“[They should have] a right to choose their political leaders without opposition leaders thrown in jail as we have today with Alexei Navalny and his supporters [in Russia], or in Belarus where everyone who opposes Lukashenko’s autocratic decades-long regime is either exiled or imprisoned.”
“When we see the processes that happen and when we see that for too long we looked away as these autocracies started to once again raise their heads, then we must be sure to respond to that.”
She said the EU’s response must be threefold – expressing clear political support for Ukraine, sending weapons to Ukraine, and giving people led by autocracies “the possibility to fight”.
“We will be there to help them reach the democracy they need,” she said.
Questioned on whether she envisages a situation where the EU can make peace with Putin, Metsola took a cautious approach.
“For us, the war must end,” she responded. “It won’t end by Ukraine being ‘liberated’ as Russia and its propagandists are trying to say, but by the Russian troops stopping to bomb indiscriminately women, children, towns and historic towns to the ground. This is unacceptable in Europe and if that’s the consideration, then all our solutions must start from that point.”
“For us, the EU will always look for a ceasefire, de-escalation and the protection and support of democratic processes in all countries.”
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.
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