Russia’s ‘immoral’ war demands concerted European response, Higgins says

President talks about ‘shared values’ of Ireland and Austria as he begins visit in Vienna

Russia's "immoral and unjustified" war in Ukraine demands a concerted European response and "every glimmer of hope through diplomacy" must be seized, President Michael D Higgins has said.

“We must not allow ourselves to be mired in militarism,” he warned.

He made the comments at a lunch hosted by Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna marking the start of a two-day visit to Austria by the President and his wife Sabina.

The lunch was also attended by Minister of State for European Affairs Thomas Byrne, who is accompanying the President, and the Minster's Austrian counterpart.


Mr Higgins said, at an international level as neutral countries, the shared values of Ireland and Austria "are evident in our support for multilateralism and the United Nations, our commitment to the pursuit of peaceful resolution of conflicts and our respective records of involvement in UN peacekeeping".

“Our partnership has grown in strength, too, as leading voices for human rights and staunch advocates for disarmament.”

He said, as members of the European Union, "it is with shock and horror that we look to the aggression that has been unleashed against Ukraine and its people".

“The humanitarian crisis resulting from Russia’s immoral, unjustified war against its neighbour demands a concerted European response,” he said.

"This return to war in Europe, such abuse by the powerful of its neighbour, the flagrant violations of the principles of the United Nations, bring into sharp focus our shared values, test our resolve, our solidarity, our common humanity."

“Every glimmer of hope through diplomacy must be seized,” he said. “We must not allow ourselves to be mired in militarism. These times, however challenging, are times for multilateralism and our international institutions.”

The President said he had greatly appreciated the wide-ranging discussions with his Austrian counterpart and welcomed the opportunity for further engagements later on Wednesday.

Ireland and Austria, he noted, have a “deep and longstanding” relationship dating to at least medieval times, with Irish missionaries having played important roles in Austrian education.

Longstanding relationship

He also noted the contribution made from the 17th century onwards by Irish political exiles, such as the Wild Geese and their descendants, many of whom served with distinction at the highest levels in Austria’s military, diplomatic and political office.

Ireland and Austria today share a common perspective on many issues at European level, including the importance we attach to the challenging but necessary work of envisaging the future of Europe in all its cultural diversity and the role of arts and culture in that task, he said.

“Our planet burns. Global hunger is rampant among those dispossessed by the effects of climate change. We are being distracted from so much that is important, including reaching our sustainable development goals.”

“As to our shared future and the cultivation of what might constitute a ‘mind of Europe’, we Europeans are challenged to define inclusively, to recognise diversity, be generous, genuinely international as to the outlines of the union that we now seek.”

“We cannot afford to squander this unique opportunity, as we set about rebuilding our societies and economies in the aftermath of the pandemic, to build on the vision of Spinelli, Schuman, Monnet and others, to construct a European union that speaks to its citizens in their entirety, in the fullness of their possibilities, in their glorious diversity of origin and expression, a union resolute in its vindication and protection of the most vulnerable, a union that will offer a European-led transition to a just and sustainable future free from conflict.”

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times