Prime minister Mark Rutte has said European countries need to reduce their dependence on Russian ‘pipeline politics’ in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking to an audience of students at Sciences Po university in Paris, Rutte said transition to other energy sources, including nuclear power, should be speeded up to reduce dependence on imported gas from Russia.
‘We can’t do without Russian gas at the moment, and that plays into Putin’s hands,’ he said. ‘The Russians are masters at the game of pipeline politics, which allows them to keep a foot in Europe’s door.
‘And Russian aggression in Ukraine and rising energy prices are hitting us all in our wallets.’
The speech was made during a visit to Paris by a Dutch government delegation that also included foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra, finance minister Sigrid Kaag and defence minister Kajsa Ollongren to discuss the war in Ukraine and the refugee crisis.
Rutte also said the war had shown the need to strength the European Union and Nato to keep ‘our countries and our continent safe’.
He praised the ‘remarkable step’ taken by Germany to commit to an extra €100 bn in defence spending and send weapons to Ukraine. ‘The significance of this shift cannot be overstated,’ he said.
And Rutte also repeated his call for structural economic reforms to tackle ‘sluggish’ economic growth and reduce national debt burdens so that ‘our own economies are at peak fitness’.
‘The Covid recovery fund is the perfect opportunity,’ he said. ‘For the first time ever – thanks in part to Dutch efforts – financial support has been linked to necessary reforms.’
Rutte also said Europe should ‘create a democratic alliance’ in the technological sphere with nations such as the US, Japan and South Korea to boost the semiconductor industry and ‘stop our advanced technologies falling into the wrong hands’.
‘The Russian invasion of Ukraine has plunged Europe into a new era of uncertainty,’ he said. ‘We don’t know where Russia’s aggression will end and we don’t know what the implications will be for our continent.
‘But we must do everything we can to keep Europe’s future in our own hands.’
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