EU to take ‘very strong’ position on Ukraine, Gilmore says

Tánaiste attends emergency meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt arrives at meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt arrives at meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. Photograph: Julien Warnand/EPA

 

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said the European Union will take a “very strong and robust” position at today’s emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers, at which the escalating crisis in Crimea will be discussed.

Speaking on the way into the meeting, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that while the issue of sanctions would be considered, there were also other steps that could be taken by the bloc.

“The issue of sanctions, that’s an option, and that’s something that will be considered today, but I think there are a number of steps that can be taken by the European Union providing support to Ukraine, support to the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and a very strong message to Russia. Sanctions will be part of that consideration.”

The Tánaiste arrived for the second emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in ten days, which was convened by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Saturday, in response to Russia’s move to move troops into Crimea.

“The Irish Government takes very seriously what has happened in Ukraine, ” the Tánaiste said. “I believe that that position is shared right across the European Union, right across the member states of the European Union, and I believe the foreign affairs council today will take a very strong and robust position,” he said.

Asked about the position of the government regarding the possible visit of Ukrainian opposition figure Julia Tymoshenko to Dublin this week for the European People’s Party (EPP) congress, the Tánaiste said the issue was a matter for the EPP. “It’s a matter for the EPP who they invite to their meeting. The Department of Foreign Affairs will fully respect that,” he said.

Arriving in Brussels German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed that diplomacy was key to resolving the crisis in Ukraine, which he described as the biggest crisis since the Berlin Wall came down. “Crisis diplomacy is not a weakness but it will be more important than ever to not fall into the abyss of military escalation,” he said, adding that a fact-finding mission by the OSCE could be one response to the crisis.

Sweden, which has been one of the strongest voices over the last few months on providing support to Ukraine, was strongly critical of Russia’s “illegal actions.”

Its foreign minister Carl Bildt said that while the European Union would seek a political solution, that would be based on the withdrawal of Russian forces. “It is a fundamental principle of European security that one should not violate the borders of other countries. Military might is not the way to make friends in Europe.”