For cynics, what could be trapped in an era of competitive gesture politics as Ukraine is burning. But it’s all too easy to be cynical in this difficult time when we need healing.
The Eurovision Song Contest cannot be held next year because of the war in Ukraine, we have learned. But the revelation came hot on the heels of news that the EU’s policy-directing commission has recommended that the beleaguered nation should get “candidate membership status”.
Taoiseach Michael Martin will join other EU leaders at a summit in Brussels next Thursday, likely to confirm his candidacy for membership.
Mercifully, the leaders’ summit has no role in deciding the Eurovision war sites, as the decision falls on the United National Television Officials, the UER, who are discussing with the BBC a Brexit deal or a no Brexit deal. To be staged in the UK.
Back in the real world, last Thursday saw a historic joint visit to Ukraine by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, which was joined by Romanian President Claus Iohannes. With Moscow watching closely, it could do nothing more than deliver a clear message of welcome.
It is often too easy to be cynical about the EU. But the visit of these four leaders to Kyiv on Thursday has reminded us of the main mission of the European Project. It is about peace, freedom and solidarity – even though the delivery on these values can sometimes appear dull and half-hearted.
Ukraine is now ready to join the EU and even though it may take years or decades, leaders have made it clear that they see Ukraine’s place inside the EU. The symbolic visit also sent a message to the belligerent Russian President, Vladimir Putin, stating that the Soviet sphere of influence was dead, and could not be revived by force of arms.
That comedian turned unlikely global war hero, Volodymyr Zelensky, is taking on two other membership postulants – Moldova and Georgia – in the wake of Ukraine. These two countries also live under the shadow of Putin’s aggression, and they have both experienced its consequences in recent years with violent Russian attacks.
In short, Georgia has been told it “must work hard” before it gets to the door of starting membership, while also showing signs of hope. Moldova, which is largely ethnically Romanian, benefits from full EU legislation that has already been translated into that language.
We’re told this is something that can take away years of waiting in the subscription queue.
Taoiseach Michael Martin reads the runes on the issue very well as he foresaw the direction of travel despite frequent signs of reluctance in several EU capitals regarding Ukraine’s candidacy. Yesterday he noted that the path to EU membership is “complicated and challenging” that requires considerable work from a candidate country.
Mr Martin’s efficient handling of the EU level won’t have crowds of voters in support – but he deserves some kudos here nonetheless.
The whole story reminds us of Ireland’s good fortune in terms of geographical location and history. The country joined the European Union in January 1973 as part of the first expansion, which took the group of nations from six to nine members.
Now the expansion of the European Union has slowed and the last new member state, Croatia, joined back in 2013. In fact Ireland, with Bertie Ahern as President of the Council of the European Union, presided over the last major new membership intake of 10 countries back in 2004.
In recent years it has been observed that it is time to slow down the new membership scheme for various reasons as the 27 nations struggle to pull together with the ultimate success. Leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron want the debate to revisit the core values that drive membership of the European Family of Nations – in particular respect for the rule of law, human rights and a free market.
Tensions with Poland and Hungary, in particular over the independence of the judiciary, have stirred things up. But the words of EU founder Jean Monet are worth remembering: “Europe will be mired in crises, and the solutions to those crises will be the sum of those adopted.”