Rise in energy prices likely after German sanctions on Russia, Taoiseach warns

Martin ‘taken aback’ by Putin’s speech, which he says is based on ‘old thinking’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned of rising energy prices after Russia's move on Ukraine "cast a serious cloud over the European continent".

At a joint press conference in Berlin amid uncertainty over Moscow's next move, German chancellor Olaf Scholz said the Russian push into Ukraine had created a "fundamentally different" situation.

He has halted regulatory approval of a completed 1,200km undersea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, built to boost energy deliveries across Europe.

“It is a very significant decision for a German chancellor to make; we shouldn’t underestimate the significance of that statement as it was a major investment,” said Mr Martin after a working lunch with Mr Scholz.

The Taoiseach said he was “taken aback” by President Vladimir Putin’s speech on Monday evening , which he said was based on “old thinking” about spheres of interest that had “no part to play in the 21st century”.

Urging Russia to return to diplomacy, Mr Martin said Russia’s “encroachment” on Ukraine – and Berlin’s reaction on Tuesday – would result in higher energy bills across Europe.

“We are in a very serious situation now because of what happened yesterday,” said Mr Martin, as EU members announced their first sanctions against Russia. “Sanctions will have greater impacts on some countries than others and there’s no getting away from that.”

He said no new measures were likely to ease rising energy costs in Ireland, such as delaying the carbon tax hike or extending electricity bonuses to gas users, because chasing inflation eventually “becomes self-defeating”.

Russian breaches

Mr Scholz attacked the Russian move as a breach of the UN charter and Helsinki agreements on national sovereignty and the immovability of national borders – as well as the more recent Minsk agreement signed by Moscow and Kyiv.

“It is up to the international community to respond to these one-sided, incomprehensible and unjustified actions of the Russian president in a co-ordinated and targeted way,” said Mr Scholz, “so we send a signal to Moscow that such actions will not remain without consequence.”

German officials said Mr Scholz and other leaders are determined to continue efforts to engage with Moscow diplomatically while introducing a first stage of targeted but limited sanctions.

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said 60-70 Irish citizens remained in Ukraine, all of whom had been encouraged to leave in recent days, but some were married to Ukrainian citizens, had families and considered Ukraine their home. It would now be difficult for them to get out, he warned.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been communicating with Irish families awaiting surrogate babies in Ukraine. “We will work with families to ensure they are reunited with their children as soon as possible,” Mr Coveney said.

Good relations

At the joint press conference with the Taoiseach, Mr Scholz described German-Irish relations as “close, trusting and good”.

On Brexit, he said London must move to implement the Northern Ireland protocol.

“The British government must meet its commitments under international law and implement the protocol,” said Mr Scholz. “It is the guarantee of freedom and peace on the island of Ireland, to protect the internal market and is a central pillar of the relationship between the UK and the EU that we agreed after Brexit.”

Mr Martin said Ireland looked forward to deepening even further political and trade contacts and on climate action.

On Brexit, he thanked Germany for its support and solidarity throughout the Brexit process and for German assistance during the pandemic, in particular with testing capacity and for repatriation of Irish nationals.