‘Ireland stands with Ukraine,’ Zelenskiy says as EU candidacy approved

Ukrainian president praises Micheál Martin for support as war-torn nation gets candidate status

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has welcomed Ireland’s backing of Ukraine’s European Union candidacy as a “historic coming together of our nations” and praised the leadership of the Taoiseach.

Mr Zelenskiy addressed the 27 national leaders by video link after they agreed to declare his country a candidate for EU membership along with Moldova on Thursday, the start of a long path to one day joining the union.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin welcomed the step. “in my view it ushers in a new era, in terms of both EU enlargement and also a broader conversation around the continent of Europe,” Mr Martin told journalists .

The Ukrainian president recalled that he had addressed the leaders in different circumstances in March.


“Three months ago, I addressed each country of the European Union and indicated at what stage we were, as I thought, in our relations,” Mr Zelenskiy told the EU leaders, according to a copy of the address.

At that time, he had singled out some countries for praise and Hungary for criticism, and caused some consternation by saying Ireland “almost” stands with Ukraine.

All changed however in Thursday’s address, as Mr Zelenskiy listed all the EU member states in the same order, and said each one “stands for us”.

“Ireland stands for us. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister! This is a historic coming together of our nations. Your personal leadership is truly impressive,” Mr Zelenskiy said.

Mr Martin commended Ukraine’s “very persistent and also well-informed approach” in fulfilling the candidacy requirements and said there was a fresh momentum behind enlarging the EU “from a geopolitical perspective”.

EU leaders declared that Croatia will become the latest country to adopt the euro as a currency from January, while a political breakthrough raised the prospect of accession negotiations beginning.

Prospective member states must still impose challenging rounds of reforms and alignment with the EU in order to join. Ultimate membership is not a given, and the process can take well over a decade or more.

Nevertheless, the step is deeply meaningful for many Ukrainians, as a statement of solidarity and commitment to a better future for their country as it suffers brutal losses in the war.

“Today you have adopted one of the most important decisions for Ukraine in all 30 years of independence of our state,” Mr Zelenskiy told the EU leaders.

“However, I believe this decision is not only for Ukraine. This is the biggest step towards strengthening Europe that could be taken right now.”

Ukraine “probably had the largest number” of EU flags flying in it of any state, despite not being a member, he told them.

“Thank you! Thank you for making possible a new history of Ukraine, a new history of Europe - even stronger, even freer. Thank you all so much!”

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times