Speaking from Brussels where he is attending a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers about the war in Ukraine, Mr Coveney told RTÉ radio’s News at One that he did not think new sanctions would be agreed on Monday but that there was an appetite for increased sanctions with Ireland to the fore in such discussions.
Curtailing oil and gas exports from Russia was one option, he said, as European states pay €260million per day on oil to Russia and a similar amount per day for gas. “Every single day”.
Mr Coveney said he did not think there would be agreement immediately on sanctions against Russian oil and gas as some countries were 80 per cent to 90 per cent reliant on Russian fuel supplies. “That creates a difficulty.”
The high amounts being paid to Russia for oil and gas did open Europe to claims that it was helping finance Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he acknowledged. “I certainly accept money from the EU spent on energy is funding Russia right now. You don’t need to convince me.”
The war in Ukraine had also given fresh impetus to a new EU defence strategy – Strategic Compass, which Ireland was helping to shape, he said.
It was about trying to find a more coordinated common policy, for a collective intervention when and where the EU needed to be a peacekeeper, said Mr Coveney. Potentially this could include the Irish defence forces who already worked with other EU states in peacekeeping units so they were already familiar in operating together.
Ireland’s contribution towards helping the Ukrainian military was now going to be €22million as the EU fund had been doubled from half a billion to one billion euro. Ireland’s contribution would be for non-lethal items such as helmets, protective equipment, food parcels and fuel.
When asked if the Taoiseach would be able to attend the Council of EU leaders later this week, Mr Coveney said Mr Martin hoped to be able to attend, but that if he could not then he would nominate someone to give the Irish contribution.