DEPUTY BRENDAN SMITH – APRIL 5 2022
Sadly, we continue to see the horrors inflicted on the people of Ukraine by a brutal Russian invasion. War crimes are being committed daily. The united European Union response, in its strongest possible format, needs to be continued, with additional measures as well. This military aggression has to be anathema to every right-thinking person. I welcome the withdrawal of more Irish companies from Russia. Those decisions should be commended and strongly encouraged in respect of any Irish businesses that remain in Russia. We all know that at the present time, the priority must be providing for the safety of the Ukrainian people and getting humanitarian aid to those most in need. I am glad to hear from the Taoiseach that there was a discussion at the European Council about deepening partnerships with the neighbours of the European Union to the east. I welcome the fact that there is a greater political awareness and acceptance of the need for the European Union to enlarge and have better relationships with those countries to its east. For far too long we have had too many apologists for Russian-style politics in this country. We must not lose sight of the longer-term project of having Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as EU members. Even though at the present time the priority must be the terrible conflict and getting humanitarian aid to people, the project of bringing those countries in as full EU members has to be progressed as much as possible within the present constraints.
Deputy Brendan Smith’s points followed on from that and I strongly support his points about the EU perspective of many states in the neighbourhood of Russia.
We should be accelerating their applications to join the European Union, particularly Ukraine but also the western Balkan countries, where quite a number of states are well advanced. The European Union has been somewhat too slow in accepting their applications and some member states have held back in agreeing to allowing those countries to join. From a geopolitical perspective, the strongest protection that many countries in the neighbourhood of Russia and the EU have is membership of the European Union. When the Cold War edifice and the Soviet empire collapsed, the people of countries like Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, for the first time ever, had a chance to get into a democratic framework and be part of a wider family of European Union nations. They grasped that opportunity with open arms and that is why many of them joined NATO as well. They did so because of their acute sense of insecurity, which we do not have to the same extent when it comes to Russia. We have no sense of the experience that Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and Hungarians had at the hands—–