The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a historic watershed on the road to a new European security and defense architecture.

This was the conviction of key participants on Thursday and Friday at the conference "State of the Union - Is Europe ready for the next generation?" in Florence, which is organized by the European University Institute there and in which the FAZ is also involved as a media partner.

Matthias Rub

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

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"This is the moment when the EU emerged as a geopolitical actor," said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell.

"We now speak the language of power, and will continue to do so," assured Borrell.

The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola said: “There is a reality before February 24th and one after February 24th.” The world has changed, “and we have to understand that the weight of responsibility for the democratic world order weighs more heavily than ever on Europe's shoulders," Metsola said.

"We must be able to bear this responsibility," Metsola demanded and assured: "The EU has never been as strong as it is today."

Agreement on oil embargo by the end of the week?

Borrell also spoke of a kind of “collateral benefit” from the Russian invasion, although the term may seem inappropriate given the suffering and destruction in Ukraine.

"Europe is in danger and we must respond to this danger as adults," Borrell said.

It is important to overcome dependence on Russia - initially with a view to imports of coal, oil and gas.

On the fringes of the conference, Borrell was confident that an agreement in the EU on a complete boycott of Russian oil could be reached in Brussels by the end of this week.

Otherwise, the EU foreign ministers would have to find a political compromise on the matter.

Especially since Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are demanding more time to join the oil embargo.

A proposal by the EU Commission would give Hungary and Slovakia until the end of 2024 to stop their oil purchases from Russia, while the Czech Republic could have until June 2024 to enforce delivery stops.

Borrell, Metsola and other EU officials reiterated their belief that Ukraine will win the war, without specifying what such a victory might look like.

Borrell assured that although the war in Ukraine has created a rift in the continent, the EU is not in conflict with Russia or the Russian people: "We are not fighting Russia, we are defending Ukraine."

There was also agreement that the EU's faltering enlargement process had to be accelerated, especially with regard to the six countries in the Western Balkans.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić described her country's accession as soon as possible as a "common geostrategic goal" of the EU and the candidate countries.

"The sooner the better," Brnabić said.

Brnabić advocated that the EU should speed up the visa liberalization process for the Kosovar Albanians.