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

The press conference between Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and Pedro Sánchez, the Prime Minister of Spain, on 5 March 2022.

Thank you so much Prime Minister, dear Pedro,

I am very glad to be here in Madrid. Spain, indeed, is a key partner for me and I am here to prepare with you the informal Summit that we are going to have next week.

Indeed, first of all, we discussed today the extremely difficult situation created by Putin’s war. The number of refugees already exceeds 1.2 million people. And the number is likely to increase multiple times in the days and weeks to come. These are innocent women, men and children, who are fleeing Putin’s ruthless and brutal war. They need our immediate assistance. All Member States are showing a big heart and helping as much as they can. And many thanks, Pedro, for the offer that you just did in our discussions, but also here. We know very well that we can count on you, there is a long tradition, and many thanks for that. I also want to commend the frontline countries, like Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, but also Moldova, for their outstanding solidarity. They deserve our solidarity and support, as do all European countries that welcome refugees.

The European Union is providing EUR 500 million in a first tranche to help Ukrainians. And we made sure this week that Ukrainian refugees of this terrible war get residency rights in the European Union immediately for at least a year. So this includes not only the access to the labour market but, for example, also access to schools, access to medical care, many things that are now desperately needed. Let me say how proud I am of the European Union today. Our unity, our determination and the solidarity – that is really Europe at its best.

We have imposed three packages of hard-hitting sanctions on the Russian leadership. Many thanks, Pedro, here too, for the very close cooperation. By this, we are drastically limiting Putin’s ability to finance this atrocious war. But Putin’s war, as you said, and its consequences will also impact our citizens and our economies here in the European Union. We have also discussed that today.

One of the most critical topics is, indeed, energy. One thing is very clear: The European Union must get rid of the dependency from Russian oil, gas and coal. For that, we have to diversify the supply, we have to get better at energy efficiency, and we have to massively invest in renewables. Because this is a strategic investment in our security of supply, but also in the health of our planet. And I am glad to say that Spain is a real front-runner. With your impressive share of renewables – and in the national energy mix, the renewable energies play the major role. With the large LNG capacities. But also with the impressive know-how and the industrial players in the field of renewables.

So Spain can and will play an important role in supplying Europe. For that, we must work, indeed, on the interconnections between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of the European Union. And we have discussed that we will work hard on that. This is one of the major priorities. A second priority, right now, is, of course, that we need to help the consumers, the households and the businesses that have, indeed, problems with the high energy bills. We discussed that intensively and it will certainly be a topic at the informal Summit in Versailles.

Dear Pedro,

This war unleashed by Putin is not only atrocious, it is also a fight of our democracies against autocracies. It is a defining moment in our history, and Spain knows very well that democracy is priceless and that we have to stand up for it.

I am very much looking forward to seeing you at the Summit. And many thanks for hosting me this afternoon.

Thank you so much.