Speech on Dáil Éireann Motion on the Current Crisis in Ukraine

3rd April, 2014

A Cheann Comhairle, Deputies,

I move:

“That Dáil Éireann,

Rejects the validity of the referendum held in Crimea on 16 March without the minimum democratic guarantees which cannot pave the way for a change of borders between Russia and Ukraine.

Condemns the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation which violates the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine in breach of the Charter of the United Nations and the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as Russia’s specific commitments under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation and the 1991 Alma Ata Declaration.

Calls on all parties, and particularly the Russian Federation, to pursue immediately the peaceful resolution of the situation regarding Ukraine, in full respect of its bilateral and multilateral commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the right of its people to democratically decide their own future and self determination, through direct political dialogue, to exercise restraint, to refrain from unilateral actions and inflammatory rhetoric that may increase tensions and to engage fully with international mediation efforts.

Commends the measured response shown so far by Ukraine and calls on the interim Government to ensure they maintain inclusive and representative governmental structures, reflecting regional diversity, to ensure the full protection of the rights of all persons, including those belonging to national minorities, to undertake constitutional reform, to investigate all human rights violations and acts of violence and to fight extremism.

Welcomes the holding of Presidential elections in Ukraine on 25 May and underscores the right of the Ukrainian people to choose their own constitutional framework without outside interference.

Pledges its solidarity with and support for Ukraine, including through multilateral organisations of which Ireland is a member such as the United Nations, the OSCE and the Council of Europe and welcomes Ukraine’s signature of the political elements of the Association Agreement with the European Union and its Member States.”

Ukraine has rightly been the focus of much concern by all parties and all Deputies represented here since peaceful demonstrations began last November in Kiev.

In moving this motion today, I want to address three points in the House:
1) why these developments matter
2) The Irish and EU responses
3) Questions which have been prominent in recent debates

The Irish people have watched, firstly as the demonstrators were met with repressive and ultimately lethal force, and, then as Russian forces in a matter of weeks seized a part of Ukrainian territory, installed a compliant local regime, orchestrated an invalid referendum under a heavy military presence and finally announced, what is, an illegal annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to the Russian Federation.

The greatest concern must be what it means for the future and particularly for small countries such as Ireland which support an international system where respect for the rule of law is fundamental to stability and to the well-being and prosperity of all nations.

It is necessary to be clear that what is at issue here is not a debate over cultural affinities, over the language that is spoken or the flag that is flown. It is a debate over values, the sorts of values that we want to see embedded in our societies and institutions and governing public life.

The sorts of democratic values that we wish to see underpinning a global international system that is based on cooperation, not confrontation, and allows each country to determine its own future free of external pressure and the threat or use of force.

This is why the deeply troubling events in Ukraine and Crimea matter to Ireland.

Our message has been consistent from the outset.

We have spoken clearly of the need for inclusive dialogue, full respect for global norms, including fundamental rights and freedoms, the exercise of restraint from all sides and a total rejection of intimidation and violence.
As it has developed over recent months, the crisis in Ukraine has presented us with the most significant and dangerous political crisis in Europe for several decades.

We must take a strong view on what has happened in Ukraine.

We have strongly condemned Russian actions from the outset of this crisis. The Tánaiste called in the Russian Ambassador on 3 March to express his deep concern and asked him to convey this to his authorities in Moscow.

The Russian Ambassador has also been advised repeatedly by senior officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of our continued concern and that Ireland does not recognise the outcome of the illegal referendum in Crimea.

We are not alone in our actions.

The European Council, as a whole, has expressed the firm view that there is no place for the use of force and coercion to change borders in Europe in the 21st century.

In response to Russian actions, the Heads of State and Government on 6 March set out a three-stage roadmap for targeted measures against the Russian Federation in the absence of steps to de-escalate the situation.
They also endorsed an earlier decision to suspend talks with Russia on visa matters and on a New Agreement, both stated priorities of the Russian Government.

Following the holding of the referendum in Crimea, the Foreign Affairs Council implemented the second phase of measures involving the imposition of travel restrictions and an asset freeze against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On 20/21 March, the European Council added a further 12 names to this list. The Council also recalled that any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine would have far reaching consequences for relations in a broad range of economic relations with the EU and its Member States.

In preparation for such a contingency the Commission and Member States were tasked to prepare possible targeted measures and this work is ongoing in Brussels.

It is right, therefore, that we prepare these decisions carefully. We continue to hope that further steps will not prove necessary and that a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the current crisis can be found but there is a need to be prepared.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, strongly supports the new interim Government in Ukraine whose Ministers are drawn from a range of different political groupings and which took office on 27 February.

EU Heads of State and Government and the acting Ukrainian Prime Minister signed the political provisions of the Association Agreement in Brussels on 21 March. This was an important symbol of our support. It was also a clear signal that the Union is ready to offer significant assistance on its path to closer cooperation with us.

Together with the EU and IMF, the total international support is estimated to amount to about $27 billion over the next two years.

While the new Government faces extraordinary challenges, it has shown admirable restraint. The European Union has encouraged the Government to ensure that the presidential elections to be held on 25 May will be free and fair.

We also welcome the Government’s commitment to ensure full protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities, to undertake constitutional reform, to investigate all human rights violations and acts of violence and to fight extremism.
We look forward to the early establishment of the Council of Europe International Advisory Board.

We have been active also at the United Nations in New York. Following a Russian veto of a resolution in the Security Council on 15 March, Ireland co-sponsored a General Assembly resolution which underscored that the referendum had no validity and could not form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea or the city of Sevastopol.

A United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission has now also been deployed to Ukraine.

Similarly, we have been strongly supportive of the many efforts by the Council of Europe and by the OSCE to establish a presence on the ground that can assist in providing an accurate and independent assessment of developments in Ukraine.

On 21 March, the OSCE Permanent Council adopted a decision to deploy and OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. The decision provides for the initial deployment for six months of 100 civilian monitors, and provides for an increase in this number to 400.

A number of Irish experts with experience of OSCE field operations have volunteered for the mission.

A Cheann Comhairle, Deputies,

There have been some suggestions that the situation in Crimea is comparable to Kosovo. There can be no such comparison.

In view of the conflict of the 1990s and the extended period of international administration under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo constituted a sui generis case which did not call into question the principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. This point was specifically stated by the European Council in 2008.

Furthermore, the Declaration on Friendly Relations confirms that no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or use of force by one state against another shall be recognised as legal.

Throughout this crisis, the European Union has been united and strong in its response whilst ensuring, above all else, that cooperation with the Ukrainian Government has been maintained in respect of its decisions and in full compliance with international law.

Whilst it is not unusual to have different perceptions among Member States on global issues, all Member States have been and are united in their view that what has happened in Ukraine is completely unacceptable and that it will have consequences for Russia.

In light of all these developments we stand here as representatives of a country with history such as our own; with a track record in an absolute insistence that the rule of law is the fundamental guarantor of stability in the international system; and as a country which has always defended the values on which the very foundation of peace and stability in Europe is based and we must reject the validity of the referendum in Crimea, condemn its illegal annexation and pledge our support for Ukraine.

I commend the Motion to the House and I urge Deputies to do the same.