June 8, 2023
‘Harsh times reveal true friends’: European Commission president addresses Canadian Parliament

‘Harsh times reveal true friends’: European Commission president addresses Canadian Parliament

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen rounded out her two-day visit to Canada with a speech to Parliament Tuesday night, highlighting the close relationship between Canada and Europe, and underscoring the importance of staying united with Ukraine against Russia.

Von der Leyen’s trip to Kingston, Ont. and Ottawa has focused on clean energy, trade, and support for Ukraine, all themes she delved into in her remarks to Members of Parliament and senators.

Von der Leyen began her address by recognizing the connections between Canada and the European Union, saying “harsh times reveal true friends,” before highlighting the global impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“All of this because President Putin refuses to recognize (Ukraine’s) freedom and (its) independence, and this we can simply not accept,” von der Leyen told the House of Commons before a standing ovation.

She called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a threat to “European security” and to “the very foundation of our international community.”

“We will stand up for Ukraine to be the master of their own future. Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine, and we will keep supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes,” she also said, to more applause from parliamentarians.

Ahead of her remarks, von der Leyen and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toured the Canadian Forces Base Kingston Tuesday, where during a joint press conference she called Canada “one of the European Union’s most trusted partners.”

“We share the same vision of the world, the same democratic values,” von der Leyen said. “We believe in the power of co-operation, solidarity and multilateralism.”

Von der Leyen has been calling for Canada to export more clean hydrogen to Europe, as the block of countries tries to wean itself off Russian energy.

She highlighted in her speech the importance of getting away from dependence on Russian oil, and lauded Canada for its role in that by increasing its production of liquefied natural gas.

She also said that as the West moves more toward renewable energies, Canada’s partnership with Europe becomes increasingly crucial.

The last foreign dignitary to address Canada’s House of Commons was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in March 2022.

Senate Speaker George Furey began his remarks after von der Leyen’s speech by recognizing the timing of her address as being a year after Zelenskyy’s, and saying her words are a reminder of the importance of “protecting the values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”

“They are the values that we must never take for granted,” he added.

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