‘We want more than Putin can give us’

The tense political and military stand-off in Ukraine dominated a meeting of Europe’s centre-right parties in Dublin.

‘We want more than Putin can give us’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny had hoped the event would act as a showcase for post-bailout Ireland, but EU leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel were late in arriving for the summit after an emergency heads of governments gathering in Brussels to discuss the volatile situation in Ukraine.

The meeting of the European People’s Party also saw Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, head to Dublin.

Freed Ukranian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko told the gathering that Russia was holding the people of Crimea at gunpoint. “In recent weeks Ukraine became more than a country, it became a symbol, an idea, the idea of Europe in freedom, the idea of Europe in strength. Don’t let this be broken.

“The Kremlin must understand that Ukraine is a state and not a territory, a sovereign nation that is free to join Europe. It is not a vassal, or a colony that can be driven into a cage.

“We are different, we are free and we want something else than Putin can give us today,” she said.

Ukrainian opposition leader and former boxer Vitali Klitschko said he hoped a solution could be reached “without bloodshed.”

After being subjected to verbal abuse by some anti-austerity protesters outside the Dublin convention centre, Mr Klitschko said: “For all European politicians, we have to defend Ukraine. Ukraine has to be still independent and free.”

Mr Klitschko said the country would “fight” for its freedom.

European Affairs Minister Paschal Donohoe attacked commentators who branded Ireland the austerity “poster boy” of Europe as he said it insulted the sacrifices of the Irish people.

“And the label attributed to Ireland by some commentators that Ireland is a poster boy for austerity insult these efforts and demeans the motives of the Irish people. These efforts have been made with one thing in mind; to get Ireland back to work and create a better future for all of our people,” he said.

The conference was also deciding its preferred candidate to take over from Mr Barroso as European Commission president — a role Mr Kenny has said he is not interested in running for.

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