EU chief thanks Irish people for ‘outstanding’ welcome for Ukrainian refugees

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has thanked the Irish people for their “outstanding” support welcoming Ukrainian refugees.

Ms von der Leyen is on a two-day trip to Dublin, where she is meeting Irish premier Micheal Martin.

The two leaders will discuss the war on Ukraine, the energy crisis, green transition and the Northern Ireland Protocol during her visit.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen signs a visitors' book at Government Buildings in Dublin
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen signs a visitors’ book at Government Buildings in Dublin (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

She will also address a joint sitting of the Houses of the Oireachtas to mark Ireland’s 50-year membership of the EU.

Speaking on the steps of Government Buildings in Dublin, Ms von der Leyen said: “I want to personally thank you (Micheal Martin) for the excellent co-operation we had in the last two-and-a-half years.

“These were very eventful years indeed. As you said, first of all the pandemic.

“You have steered very skilfully Ireland through the pandemic and out of the pandemic, and I highly appreciate how you’ve always been a strong supporter of our vaccine strategy.

“You have presented an excellent national recovery resilience plan and the next generation EU where I had the honour and pleasure to be here to present it together with you.

Ms von der Leyen and Mr  Martin at Government Buildings in Dublin
Ms von der Leyen and Mr Martin at Government Buildings (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

“Now, indeed, we are in difficult times because Russia unleashed an atrocious war against Ukraine. First and foremost I want to thank the Irish people, for opening their hearts and their homes to Ukrainian refugees. This is outstanding.

“I want to thank you for the strong support for Ukraine to become a candidate member of the European Union.”

She said everyone was feeling the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine, including the huge energy prices.

The European Commission president also praised Ireland’s efforts to invest in renewable energy.

“We’re working very closely together, first of all, to diversify away from Russian fossil fuels with success, she added.

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“We have saved a lot of energy, we have filled our storage so we are safe for the winter.

“But of course there needs to be an answer for the mid to long-term, and here I want to underline how impressive the Irish investment in renewable energy is.

“So you know your best way to become an clean energy superpower in the EU.”

Mr Martin also paid tribute to Ms von der Leyen.

“I want to pay tribute to the leadership of the president over the last number of years, particularly during the pandemic, the war on Ukraine and managing the energy crisis that has resulted from that,” he said.

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“We will discuss today how we can continue to make real our unequivocal support for the people of Ukraine, as they face into a very cold and difficult winter and face the ravages of a terrible, immoral and illegal war. Of course, we will discuss the energy crisis, the slowing global economy.

“But above all, knowing the president’s strong commitment to intensifying the green transition, we will discuss that and of course, our relationship with like-minded countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. We will discuss the ongoing situation in terms of the Northern Ireland protocol.

“We appreciate the solidarity that has been shown. But of course, we all want to have a constructive and solid relationship with our neighbours, the United Kingdom. So that will form the basis of our discussions today as we mark 50 years of Ireland’s transformative membership with the European Union.”

Ms von der Leyen will later meet with the Irish president Michael D Higgins.