The Russian invasion of Ukraine has strengthened Europe’s need to be “strategically autonomous”, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola told CDE.News in an exclusive interview in Strasbourg this morning.
Metsola said that as the events in Afghanistan last year highlighted, Europe cannot depend any longer solely on US support.
Recent US governments have tended to disengage from large-scale military operations in Africa and the Middle East, thus leaving to Europe crisis situations and conflict resolution in the European neighbourhood.
The world’s geo-political realities have changed, she added, particularly with the emergence of China as another global force.
In such a context, while acknowledging that a number of Member States might have limited room of manouvre because of neutrality concerns, the EU needs to have its own defence capabilities. The scale of the Russian aggression on Ukraine has already moved a number of countries in re-thinking their neutral stance, including Ireland and Finland, she noted.
Surveys carried out this week in Finland and Sweden, traditionally neutral countries, have shown that more then 50% of Finns and Swedes now support joining NATO.
Metsola warned that unless European strategic autonomy is achieved, if Ukraine is taken over by Russia, the EU today is not in a position to safeguard its territorial integrity. The way forward is to “increase our defence capabilities” to meet these new realities that surround the European Union.
The concept of strategic autonomy has gained ground in the late 2010s, after the French President, Emmanuel Macron, called for a conscious ‘European sovereignty’ and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that Europe would have to take its destiny into its own hands, as it could no longer necessarily rely on the United States to protect it.
The EP President also re-iterated her belief that the EU should move towards a ‘zero gas’ policy, which was an essential tool to stop Russia in its tracks, adding that the continued use of Russian energy sources meant that Europeans were actually financing the war.