President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola visited Estonia on Friday and spoke with ETV's "Välisilm" about coronavirus, Russian energy and Ukraine's EU membership bid.
Metsola is from the EU's smallest country, Malta, and she was elected president earlier this year. She is the youngest person to ever hold the title.
Despite being from southern Europe, she understands the issues in the Baltic Sea region as her husband in Finnish, "Välisilm" said. Metsola sees herself as a pragmatist.
Interview Johannes Tralla kicked off the interview by asking Metsola about coronavirus. She said she flew to Estonia without showing a vaccine passport or wearing a mask.
Asked if we will need these items again in the autumn, Metsola said she hoped not.
"I hope that we have learned that the instinct that we had, with this unknown virus that came so we thought from outside Europe, and the only solution was to close borders that we have worked for decades to open. And because we closed them it took us a very long time to realize that that was not the solution, but rather than less Europe, if you will, we needed more Europe."
Metsola said one of the subjects everyone raises with her is the climate. She said this generation is the last one that can do something about it and must make tough decisions.
Estonia is currently burning record amounts of foreign fuels to provide electricity, Tralla asked how we can make sure that the security threat and massive inflation do not shift our focus from the Green Transition to merely making ends meet?
"For me, they are not mutually exclusive. We have an unreliable partner [Russia] that is not only intimidating but blackmailing those countries which are 100 percent, not 90 or 95 percent, dependent on Russia for their energy needs. This is the time to move away from that," she said.
Speaking about moving away from reliance on Russian gas, she said countries must have the will to do so.
"If our ultimate goal is zero dependence and there is the political will to achieve it, then [there must be the] understanding that some countries need more time than others. But the political will must be there and anything less means we would have given Putin the possibility to take advantage of our division," she said.
Metsola visited Kyiv on April 1 and spoke before the parliament about Ukraine's future in Europe. But how does this fit with other leaders' views, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, who believe the country is not ready to join?
"When I visited Kyiv on April 1, President Zelenskyy looked straight at me and my colleagues and said "97 percent of my population want to join the European Union. I cannot look them in the eye and tell them that the European Union, after saying it would help us, saying it would welcome us, has closed the door". That is the message that I have taken back with us to Brussels and wherever else I have discussed this, including with President Macron and others, and heads of state and government," the president said.
As a pragmatist, Metsola wants to focus on how Ukraine can be helped today.
"Not just with big words, not just by talking to Ukraine over video conferences and promising things and then switching off our microphones and saying "yeah, yeah — that might happen in 10 years". My interest is in how we can help Ukraine today first with the war, then reconstruct and then welcome them into our European family," she said.
Metsola said Ukraine is fighting "our war, on our continent, in our territory" and more can be done logistically and technically.
"We have done a lot, but we can do much, much more," she said.
You can watch the interview here.
Editor: Helen Wright