It was a delicate question for the presidents of France and the European Commission, on a day when both proclaimed the need for a more powerful Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has done his best to prevent Europe from having a say in Ukraine’s fate, and Russian and US diplomats will begin talks on the Ukraine conflict in Geneva on Monday, without the EU.
What can Europe do, asked a journalist during a press conference at the ÃlysÃ©e Palace.
âOne thing is clear: there can be no solution without Europe,â said Ursula von der Leyen, chair of the committee. She spent Friday in Paris with the College of Commissioners, to mark the start of France’s six-month rotating presidency of the union.
President Emmanuel Macron said that the talks between Russia and the United States were “a good thing” but that “the EU must also have a dialogue with Russia. . . The geopolitical situation in the region requires that Europe can put forward its vision, act and sit around the table, âMacron said.
The EU, the United States and Kiev accuse Russia of amassing tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, possibly with the intention of invading.
Ambassadors from member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will also meet with Russian officials next week, hoping to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
“The Russian military build-up around Ukraine continues, accompanied by threats from Moscow if its demands are not accepted,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday after a video conference by member countries. He called the Russian demands “unacceptable” and said: “The risk of a new conflict is real”.
Mr Macron said he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had invited Mr Putin to a meeting with France, Germany and Ukraine, the so-called Norman format, in the coming weeks.
Repression of protests
Referring to the repression of protests in the Central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan, von der Leyen called for “an end to the violence” and “restraint” of government forces. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Friday that he “gave the order to shoot to kill without warning”. Ms von der Leyen said: âThe rights and security of citizens are fundamental and must be guaranteed.
Ms von der Leyen and Mr Macron looked at each other, smiled and nodded throughout the press conference, seemingly in tune on all issues. Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, also an ally of Macron, will visit Paris next week. On January 19, Mr Macron will deliver a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, followed by a debate.
Mr Macron created a political storm in France this week by saying he wanted to ‘piss off’ or make life difficult for those who refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19. He was also criticized for saying, âWhen my freedom threatens the freedom of others, I become an irresponsible person. An irresponsible person is no longer a citizen.
The French leader said he maintained his controversial statements. “To be a citizen is to have rights and duties, first of all duties”, he declared. âFreedom ends where someone else’s life is in danger. Some have made their freedom, which has become irresponsible, a slogan. Not only do they endanger the lives of others, but they also restrict the freedom of others and I cannot accept that.
France’s strategy is simple, Macron said: âVaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Imposing restrictions on the unvaccinated was “a completely European movement”. He deplored that some “compatriots” have allowed themselves to be taken in by alarmist, “obscurantist” speeches and “do not protect themselves, while European science, research and technological excellence allow them”.