Opening remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and President Macron following the Special meeting of the European Council of 24 February 2022

(Source: European Commission)

Today’s events are a watershed moment for Europe. Bombs are falling on innocent women, men and children. They fear for their lives and many are dying. All of this happens in 2022 – in the very heart of Europe. President Putin chose to bring back war to Europe. This is a fully-fledged invasion of Ukraine. And this fundamentally puts into question our peace order.

But today I also say: The European Union stands united. Tonight, European Leaders were fully aligned in condemning the atrocious and unprovoked attacks. Now we have to meet the moment. We will hold the Kremlin accountable. The package of massive and targeted sanctions European Leaders approved tonight clearly demonstrates that. It will have maximum impact on the Russian economy and the political elite. It is built on five pillars: The first is the financial sector; second, the energy sector; the third is the transport sector; fourth are export controls and the ban of export financing; and finally, visa policy. Let me highlight some of the most important points.

First, this package includes financial sanctions that cut Russia’s access to the most important capital markets. We are now targeting 70% of the Russian banking market, but also key state-owned companies, including the field of defence. These sanctions will increase Russia’s borrowing costs, raise inflation and gradually erode Russia’s industrial base. We are also targeting the Russian elite by curbing their deposits so that they cannot hide their money anymore in safe havens in Europe.

The second main pillar targets the energy sector, a key economic area, which especially benefits the Russian state. Our export ban will hit the oil by making it impossible for Russia to upgrade its oil refineries, which gave actually Russia export revenues of EUR 24 billion in 2019.

The third topic is that we ban the sale of all aircrafts, spare parts and equipment to Russian airlines. This will degrade the key sector of Russia’s economy and the country’s connectivity. Three quarters of Russia’s current commercial air fleet were built in the European Union, the US and Canada. And therefore, they are massively depending on that.

The fourth point is that we are limiting Russia’s access to crucial technology. We will hit Russia’s access to important technologies it needs to build a prosperous future – such as semiconductors or cutting-edge technologies.

And finally, on visas. Diplomats and related groups, and business people will no longer have privileged access to the European Union.

As always, these measures are closely coordinated with our partners and allies. These are, of course, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Norway, but now also joined by South Korea, Japan or, for example, Australia. Our unity is our strength. The Kremlin knows this. And it has tried its best to divide us, but it has utterly failed. It has achieved exactly the opposite. We are more than ever united and we are determined

To conclude, let me stress that these events, indeed, mark the beginning of a new era. We must be very clear in our analysis: Putin is trying to subjugate a friendly European country. And he is trying to redraw the maps of Europe by force. He must, and he will, fail.

Thank you.

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