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Von der Leyen meets with teenage climate activists to talk Russian energy – POLITICO

The fight to help Europe shake off its Russian energy addiction continued on Saturday when activists from the Greta Thunberg-inspired Fridays for Future movement met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The activists – including a Ukrainian refugee – spoke with von der Leyen about accelerating the EU’s transition to renewable energy, the challenges involved in convincing reluctant member states like Hungary to back a Russian oil embargo, and tentatively discussed meeting again at a conference in April.

This is the third meeting between the movement and von der Leyen since its inception in 2018 and comes after FFF activists met with Polish Conservative MPs last week to discuss a Russian oil embargo and a long-standing rivalry between the two sides cancel. It also follows negotiations between EU leaders to wean themselves off Russian energy at a European Council summit, which led to an EU-US deal on Friday to ban the bloc’s imports of liquefied natural gas to increase the US

“It was incredibly interesting to hear that she is a strong advocate for moving away from fossil fuels,” said Dominika Lasota, a 20-year-old activist from Poland, of meeting von der Leyen. “She believes that now may be the moment to finally abandon destructive energy sources.”

“We need to create a new normal … and make sure that when the last bomb falls on Ukraine, it also means the end of the fossil fuel system that is the basis of the crisis,” Lasota said.

The activists also discussed how the EU should protect Ukrainian refugee rights in the longer term. Lasota said von der Leyen “believes that now is a lesson and a moment to reflect on Europe’s approach to people seeking refuge in the EU, equally and differently than in 2015.” More than 3.5 million refugees have crossed from Ukraine to the EU since Vladimir Putin’s war began more than a month ago.

“Many of the things that seemed impossible within the EU are now some things that we are actively discussing,” Lasota said.

The four activists at the meeting included 16-year-old Ukrainian activist Arina Bilai, who fled Kyiv for Warsaw a week ago, as well as Hungarians Lili Aschenbrenner and German activist Luisa Neubauer.

“Europe must get rid of fossil fuels” called von der Leyen on Twitter after the meeting. “A rapid expansion of renewable energy can help us become independent of Russian gas, oil and coal, which Putin uses to finance his war machine.”

The activists said they agreed to stay in touch with von der Leyen.

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