Report by President Charles Michel to the European Parliament plenary session

Two days ago, I was at the UN Security Council to express our common European commitment to condemn Russian atrocities and to reaffirm our support for Ukraine.

The Russian ambassador did not like what I said, and he walked out because he refused to look the truth in the eye. But we won’t stop telling the truth. We won’t stop acting to back Ukraine and to confront Russia with the facts.

Russia is using food as a weapon of war, stealing grain, blockading ports and turning farmlands into battlefields. There are over 20 million tons of grain, wheat and corn stuck in Ukraine. This is disrupting global food security, driving up prices, and causing global famine.

During our European Council meeting, we focused on the logistical solutions to get these products to global markets, including working with Ukraine — and EU member states — to establish alternative transport routes.

Global hunger is everyone’s business, so it requires a coordinated, comprehensive and global approach, and we are working with the G7, the African Union and all our other partners.

In New York, a few days ago, I met with Secretary-General Guterres to discuss global food security and our common efforts to get the blocked grain out of Odesa. The Kremlin is weaponising food supplies and surrounding their actions with a web of lies, Soviet-style. We must join forces to call out these fabrications as pure fiction, particularly for the global South. These are Russian ships and Russian missiles that are blocking the export of crops and grain; Russian tanks, bombs and mines are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.

Let’s be clear: there are no EU sanctions on Russian agricultural products. And I say to all countries affected by this food crisis: don’t be fooled by the Kremlin’s propaganda, don’t be instrumentalised by Russia.

We also reached a landmark agreement on Russian oil. This embargo will cover 90% of oil imports from Russia into the EU by the end of the year. This is a remarkable achievement and it will be extended to all pipeline oil as soon as possible.

Two months ago, in this House, I said that sooner or later, measures on hydrocarbons would be needed, and we did it. This shows that we are and we remain united and committed to piling the pressure on Russia.

Ukraine urgently needs liquidity: five billion euros a month just to keep the country running. So we discussed how we can work with our international partners to get the Ukrainian government the money it needs.

We agreed to provide up to nine billion euros to Ukraine in macro-financial assistance and we also addressed Ukraine’s reconstruction: right now and in the future, the EU must be, and will be, a leader in driving this forward. We discussed a Ukraine reconstruction platform — together with the Ukrainian government, the EU and member states, and all our international partners and friends.

Russia is brutally destroying Ukraine and it is only fair that Russia — the aggressor —should pay to rebuild the country. We agreed to look into the possibility of confiscating assets of sanctioned Russian individuals and entities, in line with EU and international law. This could help finance Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Russia’s war has bolstered our ambition for a strong, coordinated European defence. In March, in Versailles, we agreed to strengthen our security and to increase our sovereignty. We want to have defence capabilities that match today’s threats and we agreed to urgently replenish member states’ stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine, and in the medium and long term, to reinforce our European defence technology and industrial sector, including SMEs.

This means better coordinating our purchases and pooling spending for joint procurement. Member states' lack of cooperation on defence is costing tens of billions of euros per year. Only 11% of member states' defence investments are spent collaboratively and we are missing huge opportunities for real savings, for economies of scale, and for ensuring that our armed forces are more interoperable.

A more capable EU will strengthen NATO and increase global security.

We also discussed energy prices, including the possibility of trying to lower the gas price by capping it, together with our international partners. Different views remain on the feasibility and we have therefore asked the Commission to analyse this.

We are also working to phase-out Russian fossil fuel imports. To become more energy independent, we will act in four key areas. First, we will diversify the fuels we use and the sources they come from; second, we will speed up the deployment of renewables and the permitting procedures; third, we will do more to save energy and promote energy efficiency; and finally, we will invest in infrastructure, interconnections and renewables. But our discussions showed that much work remains on the financing aspects of the Commission’s proposals and the Council will now take work forward in these different areas.

If we want to be a geopolitical power, we must act as a geopolitical power. This means taking care of ourselves but also taking care of others. By being together, we can use that power to become more sovereign and more prosperous, more influential.

We are united and committed to back Ukraine and to build our common future.

Thank you.

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