The situation in Ukraine worsens hour by hour. Ukrainian women, men and children need us to be united in these challenging times. The EU and every Member State need to continue to live up to their responsibilities by protecting people, democracy and our shared values.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) wholeheartedly endorses the EU's strongest position calling for an immediate stop to military action on Ukrainian soil. Any further harm to citizens and also to critical infrastructure, including nuclear power plants, must be avoided.
Reliable news will be crucial to the outcome of this war. Civil society and its organisations can play a key role in tackling disinformation. Maintaining dialogue with Russian civil society can also serve that purpose.
Protecting people in Ukraine is one of the current priorities. So far, more than 2 million people have already fled Ukraine as a consequence of the war and many more are expected to escape. The EU has already shown solidarity by granting temporary protection to all refugees fleeing their homeland of Ukraine - but more needs to be done.
We must step up our efforts to help people in Ukraine and provide immediate support for refugees both upon arrival and as they integrate into European society in the coming months. The role of organised civil society is pivotal here: these organisations are active on the ground, providing Ukrainians with desperately needed humanitarian assistance on a day-to-day basis.
Dependency and autonomy
The current situation has shone a harsh light on just how dependent Europe has become on third-country gas, oil and critical raw materials – not to mention the importance of safe, sustainable and affordable food.
In order to mitigate the negative impact of the war in Ukraine on already sky-high energy prices in Europe, we need tangible action to strengthen Europe's strategic autonomy in the energy sector and beyond.
As regards European energy policy, the EESC suggests:
- diversifying imports,
- ensuring a reliable level of natural gas storage,
- increasing energy efficiency measures to reduce energy demand, and
- ensuring that renewable energy sources remain a priority.
The green and digital transitions as well as innovative technologies can help strengthen Europe's economy, competitiveness and strategic autonomy, while at the same time making us less dependent in the medium and long term.
Any action to support people and the economy requires solid and sustainable financing, with support from public and private sources.
We must take the opportunity provided by this terrible situation to make real progress on Europe's common foreign and security policy. Defence is key, but we must not forget that any successful defence policy needs to be based on a strong and united European foreign and security policy.
Without in any way disregarding the countries already on track to become members of the EU, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia also need a clear and realistic EU perspective.