E.U.’s Top Official Details Plans For Lasting Support of Ukraine

EUs Top Official Details Plans For Lasting Support of Ukraine

BRUSSELS — In an hourlong address replete with symbolism, Ursula von der Leyen, the top European Union official, emphasized the bloc’s unwavering support of Ukraine and detailed plans to manage the domestic costs of its confrontation with Russia.

Clad in a yellow-and-blue outfit to match the Ukrainian flag colors — and with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, sitting in the front row of the European Parliament chambers in Strasbourg, France — Ms. von der Leyen framed Russia’s invasion as a war against Europe.

“This is not only a war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine. This is a war on our energy, a war on our economy, a war on our values and a war on our future,” said Ms. von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.

Ms. von der Leyen used the annual “State of the Union” to deliver a message of resolve, seeking to dispel speculation that the 27-nation bloc was considering loosening sanctions against Russia despite the economic pain Moscow has inflicted.

Russia has used its natural gas supplies to Europe to punish the bloc for its support of Ukraine, turning off the tap and sending several European nations on a frantic search for alternative fuel sources. The crisis has sent already high energy prices to record levels, with consumers and businesses facing astronomical bills.

“I want to make it very clear — the sanctions are here to stay. This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement,” she said, adding that she would visit Ukraine later on Wednesday in a previously unannounced trip.

Ms. von der Leyen also pledged 100 million euros ($100 million) to rebuilding Ukraine’s schools. And she announced policies that attempt to knit Ukraine — which is a candidate for E.U. membership — closer to the bloc, including extending its free cellular roaming zone to Ukraine and giving the nation access to its single market for goods and services.

Ms. von der Leyen spent much of her speech addressing the energy crisis, saying that her office would propose legislation to cap the revenues of companies that produce electricity from cheap resources, such as renewables.

And, in a bolder step than many expected, Ms. von der Leyen said that she would propose that the bloc reform its energy pricing system to decouple the cost of electricity from the cost of natural gas. She also said gas and coal companies would be taxed further on their profits. A more detailed presentation of the measures, which would need to be approved by E.U. governments, was expected later on Wednesday.

“The months ahead of us will not be easy — be it for families who are struggling to make ends meet, or businesses, who are facing tough choices about their future,” she conceded.

But she added: “I stand here with the conviction that, with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail.”

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