Ireland could ‘adopt’ areas of Ukraine for reconstruction after the war, Simon Coveney says

Ukraine will require a reconstruction plan similar in ambition to the post-war Marshall Plan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs believes

Ireland may “adopt” a region of Ukraine to aid in its reconstruction when the Russian invasion ends, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

The support Ukraine will require to rebuild after the war could be similar in ambition to the Marshall Plan, the United States’ post second World War reconstruction of Europe, and Ireland will support this, the Minister told the Oireachtas Committee on European Union Affairs.

Ukraine will require a combination of loans and grant aid and there has been discussions between leaders on how this could work, he said.

One proposal is for countries to “adopt certain oblasts or certain regions in Ukraine,” Mr Coveney said. “Ireland has been linked to certain cities in that context that have been severely damaged in some cases. There’s a lot to discuss there.”

Anyone who claims to know when the war will end is bluffing but that a global effort will be required to physically rebuild Ukraine afterwards, he said. Effort will also be required to rebuild institutional infrastructure “in the image of what’s needed for EU membership”.

EU membership for Ukraine is a “likelihood, if not a certainty” following its acceptance as a candidate country last month, Mr Coveney said.

Ireland is taking a “maximalist” approach to Russian sanctions and is supporting a seventh EU sanctions package, he said. “We believe the higher cost for Russia and the Kremlin in continuing this war, the increased likelihood of it ending sometime soon.”

The Minister said Ireland could spend between €70 million and €80 million in non-lethal military aid to Ukraine by the end of the war. It has already contributed about €44 million through the European Peace Facility for the purchase of fuel, body armour, meals and other non-lethal aid.

“It’s a significant contribution. I don’t ever recall at any point Ireland contributing almost €50 million euros to another country’s military.”

Ukrainian leaders understand Ireland’s position in not funding the purchase of weapons, Mr Coveney said.

He told committee members the Irish Defence Forces do have some anti-tank weapons but not enough to spare. If a decision was taken to provide lethal aid, it would be in the form of “writing a cheque” rather than sending weapons.

Mr Coveney said he is open to the idea of using seized Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine but that it is legally complicated. Around €1.7 billion in assets have already been frozen in Ireland. Ireland has asked the European Commission to “work up some options” in this area, he said.

Regarding defence, Mr Coveney confirmed he wants Ireland to join the Helsinki-based European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, which operates under the auspices of Nato and the European Union.

The centre is dedicated to devising methods of countering hybrid threats, typically defined as aggression which falls below the threshold of military operations. Mr Coveney said he plans to bring a memo to Government in Autumn on the matter.

Ireland wants to operate to best international standards, which are usually Nato standards, he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re joining Nato. We’re not joining Nato.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times