Europe is sending a message of solidarity to Ukraine by granting the country EU candidate status, Ireland’s prime minister has said.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin commented in Brussels on what he described as a “very significant” and “historic” two-day meeting of the European Council in which Ukraine will be formally granted candidate status for future EU membership.
The move comes as the war continues in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion in February.
Speaking to reporters, Mr. Martin also raised fears about the prospect of famine in parts of the world due to Russian blockades on Ukrainian grain leaving the country.
Both Ukraine and Moldova are expected to be granted EU candidate status at the council meeting. Georgia’s bid to become a member state will also be recognized with the country’s formal designation of having a European perspective, one step below candidate status.
“This is a very important European Council meeting,” said Mr. Martin.
“It is historic in the sense of the enlargement of the European Union and I am particularly pleased as a long-standing supporter of Ukraine’s application for candidate status to become a member of the European Union.
“It is very significant for Ukraine, very significant for Moldova and, indeed, Georgia, in terms of a European perspective.
“In Ireland we know what the European Union means, to be a member of the European Union. It is the 50th anniversary of Ireland’s decision to join the European Union, probably the most transformative decision and event to have occurred in modern Irish history.
“So I always can’t understand how we could refuse membership to other member states, because we know that membership itself can be transformative.
“It can spur reforms, it can spur economic development, and even though Ukraine is going through a terrible, terrible, inhumane war, its cities and towns have been razed to the ground, its people have been terrorized – the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II. . .
“And I think that today the European Union is sending a message of solidarity to the people of Ukraine that you belong to the European family, you belong to the European Union, and the decision will be made today to facilitate your application and you will have candidates. status to join the European Union together with Moldova and eventually Georgia.”
On the issue of Ukraine’s grain export blockades, Martin accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of weaponizing hunger.
“There (are) no sanctions against the movement of food and Europe has been very clear about it because we do not want, in any way, to be a catalyst for any famine or starvation and that is the big fear right now because of the fact that the grain is not coming out of Ukraine, which could have very significant impacts in terms of famine and that is a big concern, particularly in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and so on,” he said.
Asked to comment on claims that Irish imports of some Russian products have actually increased, Martin added: “All security measures have been taken. We are very vigilant about our role as a country in making sure sanctions are enforced and adhered to, and we will take every precaution (at) ports and general vigilance to prevent that from happening.
“But on food and the materials that go into food production, we are very clear: there are no sanctions on that because people need food all over the world.
“Putin has weaponized food, he has weaponized energy, he has weaponized migration as part of his overall war effort, which I think is totally immoral and wrong.”