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Ursula von der Leyen – 2022 Press Conference with Italian Prime Minister

The press conference between Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and Mario Draghi, the Prime Minister of Italy, on 7 March 2022.

A very warm welcome, dear Prime Minister, dear Mario. It is wonderful to have you again here, in the Berlaymont. We are going to discuss, of course, the situation in Ukraine, the atrocious war led by Putin, and we will be discussing the new enforcement package that we are working on right now. As you know, we had three packages of hard-hitting sanctions already, but now we have to make sure that there are no loopholes and that the effect of the sanctions is maximised. The sanctions in place are really biting. We see the downward turbulences in the Russian economy. But in view of the evolution of the situation in Ukraine, the Kremlin’s recklessness towards citizens – women, children, men –, we of course are also working on further sanctions that might be warranted.

Our second topic will be energy. We have to get rid of the dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal. I know that the two of us agree on this. The Commission will be coming forward with proposals tomorrow. There are three main pillars: One is the diversification of supply away from Russia and towards reliable suppliers. This is mainly LNG and pipeline gas. Both have the advantage that the infrastructure is over time hydrogen-compatible.

The second main element is to repower the European Union. Repower means massive investment in renewables, like solar, wind and hydrogen. We are looking for a focused acceleration of the European Green Deal. This is not only important and good for our strategic investment in our independence, it is also good for our industry and it is good for our planet. This has to be complemented by a third pillar and that is improved energy efficiency: from renovation of buildings to smart industrial processes, to artificial intelligence, for example, to effectively manage smart energy grids – you name it.

Finally, a main part of our discussion will focus on the protection of consumers. Today’s energy prices are taking a toll on consumers and businesses. We will discuss how to ensure that our electricity market remains efficient despite the high gas prices that have been amplified by Putin’s war. There are two dimensions to that: The immediate one is to shield the most vulnerable consumers and businesses. And the more structural one is to look at our electricity markets given that our energy mix is transforming. Today, we have a certain share of renewables, but a vast share of gas, oil and coal. This will change. With a massive investment in renewables, we will see a wider share and growing share of renewables. We will massively increase their amount and this of course changes the structure of our market. And therefore, we have to look into the market composition. This will also be part of our discussions.

Again, a very warm welcome here to the Berlaymont, dear Mario.