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EU lays out energy crisis plan, says solidarity with Ukraine unshakeable

EU lays out energy crisis plan, says solidarity with Ukraine unshakeable
The nuclear power plant at the Isar river in Niederaichbach near Landshut, Germany, 13 September 2022. The plant belongs to PreussenElektra GmbH - Nuclear Power Plant Isar. EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK

STRASBOURG, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a series of proposals to curb the energy price spike that has rocked Europe in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, while stressing that the EU's solidarity with Kyiv would be "unshakeable."

Energy prices and inflation have surged across the 27-nation European Union as Moscow slashed gas supplies in response to sanctions, prompting some, in particular on the far-right, to argue that the sanctions were hitting the EU more and should be softened.

But with Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska the guest of honour as she delivered her annual state of the union speech in the EU’s parliament, von der Leyen said sanctions were having a real impact on Russia and were there to stay.

“This is the time for us to show resolve, not appeasement,” said von der Leyen, who was set to travel to Kyiv later on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “We are in it for the long haul.”

“And I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail,” she told the assembly in Strasbourg, France, wearing blue and yellow – the colours of both Ukraine’s and the EU flags.

Von der Leyen, whose proposals to help European households and companies include imposing cuts in electricity usage across the bloc, said the bloc was working to protect households and businesses.

“Making ends meet is becoming a source of anxiety for millions of businesses and households,” she said, proposing measures to cap revenues from low-cost electricity generators and force fossil fuel firms to share the profits they make from soaring energy prices.

“In these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits benefiting from war and on the back of our consumers. In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it most,” she said.

 

LIFE-SUPPORT”

At a time when Ukraine is working on securing territory it has reclaimed from occupying Russian forces in a swift counter-offensive, von der Leyen said this was not the time for the bloc to soften its stance.

“Russia’s financial sector is on life-support”, she said, adding that nearly one thousand international companies have left the country. “The Russian military is taking chips from dishwashers and refrigerators to fix their military hardware, because they ran out of semiconductors. Russia’s industry is in tatters.”

She said Europe had diversified away from Russian energy, but Moscow was still “actively manipulating” the market and gas prices have risen by more than 10 times compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking beyond the war in Ukraine, von der Leyen said Moldova, Georgia and Western Balkan countries were also part of “our family” and the future of the EU.

Paying tribute to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who died last week aged 96, von der Leyen said the current crises reminded her of words the Queen once said: “We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, Gabriela Baczynska, Marine Strauss, Jan Strupczewski, Phil Blenkinsop; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by John Chalmers)

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