The European Union will survive “Russia’s blackmail” of energy supplies and the looming “long winter” but only if the bloc maintains its “unity, determination and courage,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
“Russia may challenge us, blackmail us and threaten us, but we will not give in,” she told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, speaking in Finnish.
“Russia’s actions have unified the West as never before, while Russia is lonelier than ever.”
During her speech before the plenary, Marin painted a grim picture of the challenges the EU faces, including the Ukraine war, the worsening energy crisis, soaring inflation, an increasingly likely recession, strained public finances, natural disasters, democratic backsliding and the technological rise of authoritarian countries.
“However, even in the darkest moments there is hope,” she noted.
“Ukraine will win the war with our support. There is no other alternative. In our hearts, the Ukrainians have already won it.”
Marin said the EU’s greatest strength – and the only way out of the overlapping crises – was the mutual trust and unity among its 27 member states.
“Blackmailing our societies through energy supply is a way to erode European support for Ukraine and break down our unity. Putin must not succeed in this,” she said.
“With its war, Russia is destroying its economy and future. Russia has broken our trust. Even if the war ended today, our confidence would not be restored for a long time.”
Since the war broke out in late February, Marin has taken a hard line against the Kremlin, calling for sanctions and a speedy transition away from Russian fossil fuels.
Marin has also led Finland’s bid to join NATO, a process that, once completed, will redraw the alliance’s map.
In recent weeks, her government has pushed for a broad ban on visas for Russian citizens, as the country shares a 1,300-kilometre-long land border and is one of the few entry points for Russians coming to the EU.
Last month, EU foreign affairs ministers agreed to fully suspend a visa agreement with Russia and make the application system lengthier and costlier– but still possible.
For Marin, the EU must be ready to slap Moscow with “even tougher sanctions” to make the war unsustainably expensive.
“Sanctions must be reflected in the everyday lives of ordinary Russians,” she said. “It is not right that while Russia kills civilians in Ukraine, Russian tourists travel freely in Europe.”
Throughout her speech, Marin repeatedly praised Ukraine’s resistance and the “brave and unyielding” characters of its people and said the bloc’s support for Ukraine must not collapse under the weight of the energy crisis.
“We may count the cost of war in euros, but Ukrainians count it in human lives,” she told MEPs.
Reflecting on the developments over the past months, the Finnish PM said the EU was paying a “heavy price” for its entrenched dependency on Russian fuels, which she blamed on geopolitical mistakes made in the past.
“We have to admit that we have been far too naïve about Russia and have built our assumptions about Russia’s activities on wrong ideas,” she said. “We should have listened more closely to our friends from the Baltic states and Poland, who have lived under Soviet rule.”