Ireland will have to decide how far to stretch neutrality – Former Finnish prime minister

Alexander Stubb says it is ‘difficult to be neutral’ in conflict like Ukraine

Former Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb has warned that Ireland will have to decide how far it wants to stretch its own neutrality.

Last Wednesday Finland and Sweden simultaneously handed in their official letters of application to join Nato. The letters were conveyed by Finnish Ambassador to Nato Klaus Korhonen and Swedish Ambassador to Nato Axel Wernhoff to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the group’s Brussels headquarters.

Once the two Nordic countries join the alliance Ireland, Austria, Malta and Cyprus will be the only remaining European Union states outside of Nato.

In an interview on The Hard Shoulder on Newstalk Mr Stubb stressed that neutrality as a concept is becoming increasingly more problematic.

“In today’s world neutrality – it’s an important concept, everyone does their own choice. But in my mind, it’s very difficult to be neutral in a conflict like this.”

However, he insists Ireland would not be sidelined in any expansion of Nato.

“I would say that this would probably strengthen the European pillar of Nato.

And probably because of American engagement now in the transatlantic partnership, and in Nato, I think a lot of the focus on defence cooperation will be on the Nato side of things – and not many countries want to duplicate the systems.

But does this mean that Cyprus, Malta, Austria and Ireland are sidelined: no, I don’t think so.

“It’s all about their own commitment and how far they want to stretch their, so-to-speak, own neutrality in the Irish case and in the Austrian case.

So it’s pretty much up to those countries.”

Mr Stubb said there will be of course some conversation about the future of defence in the European Union.

“And it’s not going to go away –again, this is very much a decision for Ireland itself.”