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EU Commission chief signals move towards greener economy

Ursula von der Leyen (AP)
Ursula von der Leyen (AP)

The European Union’s top official has said the 27-nation bloc should avoid becoming dependent on untrustworthy countries, as it did with Russia and its fossil fuels, amid the transition towards a greener economy.

Speaking on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the “economies of the future” will no longer rely on oil and coal.

She said the green and digital transitions will increase the need for materials like lithium and silicon metal required for batteries, chips, electric vehicles or wind turbines.

The head of the EU’s executive arm said: “We rely on a handful of producers in the world. So, we must avoid falling into the same trap as with oil and gas.”

Ms von der Leyen said the EU has secured materials partnerships with countries like Canada.

She added that the war in Ukraine has strengthened Europe’s determination to quickly get rid of Russian fossil fuels.

EU countries have approved an embargo on coal from Russia but have yet to find a deal on sanctions targeting oil.

Switzerland Davos Forum
The European Commission President also pledged support for Ukraine (AP)

Ms von der Leyen also said Russia’s war in Ukraine should end with a “strategic failure” for the invading country, as she pledged that the bloc will continue to invest massively in support of Ukraine.

In addition to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia and the military aid provided to Ukraine, Ms von der Leyen said the EU has proposed over 10 billion euro (£8.4 billion) in macro-financial assistance, the largest package ever offered to a third country.

She told the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering that the EU is “mobilising our full economic power” and “we will, hand in hand, help Ukraine rise from the ashes”.

Ms von der Leyen added that reconstruction efforts also should aim to modernise Ukraine’s administration – a requirement if the country wants to join the 27-nation bloc in the future.

She said the reforms should “firmly establish the rule of law and the independence of (Ukraine’s) judiciary” and help tackle corruption.

Ms von der Leyen also said Russia can be reintegrated into the orbit of European nations if it finds its way back to “democracy, the rule of law, the respect for the international rules-based order”.

Insisting on the historical and cultural links between Europe and Russia, the head of the EU’s executive arm said reconciliation is “certainly a distant dream and hope.

“But this also says that our standing up against this brutal invasion is standing up against the leadership in Russia. It is the Russian people who are the ones who decide about the future of their country. They have it in their hands.”

John Kerry
John Kerry addresses delegates (AP)

Tuesday’s agenda in Davos is packed with sessions on one of the meeting’s key themes — climate change.

US climate envoy John Kerry told delegates that that Russia’s war in Ukraine should not deter climate goals.

Speaking at a news conference about speeding up efforts towards net zero, Mr Kerry said “we should not allow a false narrative to be created” that the war “somehow obviates the need to move forward and address the climate crisis”.

He said it is possible to both meet the need of increased energy from fossil fuels in the short term, particularly in Europe, and stay on course to reduce emissions over the coming years.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change said the next climate change summit in Egypt in November will be a “pivotal moment” for the planet.

Patricia Espinosa Cantellano says negotiations are over and implementation is starting as an investment in “a better future for all”.

Spanish leader
Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchez voiced support for Sweden and Finland joining Nato, despite objections by Turkey (AP)

She said governments now need to assess how they can attract the right investments for energy transition.

In an address to delegates earlier, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he believes Sweden and Finland will succeed in joining Nato despite Turkey’s objections to their membership.

Mr Sanchez said “the political will of the allies is to welcome these two countries”.

He said Spain will “accelerate all the parliamentary processes” to the two Nordic nations important for Nato and European Union stability.

Turkey has objected over what it sees as Finland’s and Sweden’s support for groups it considers terrorists and their block on arms sales.

On the Russia-Ukraine war, Mr Sanchez said it was “imperative that we make every effort to restore food productions, trade systems and achieve food security for the most vulnerable”.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken recently accused Russia of weaponising food and holding hostage the grain the Ukraine produces for millions of people around the world.

UN food chief David Beasley has warned that the war has created “an unprecedented crisis” of escalating food prices that are already sparking protests, riots and growing hunger.

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