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Membership negotiations for Ukraine got underway in December. Alamy
EU Enlargement

Irish public support Ukraine joining the EU, but don't want to see membership fast-tracked

Polling also found a fifth of the public believe the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine to be “very bad”.

THE MAJORITY OF the Irish public are in favour of Ukraine becoming a member of the European Union but do not support measures to see its membership application fast-tracked.

The Journal/Ireland Thinks poll found 72% of Irish citizens support measures being taken to introduce Ukraine as the 28th member state of the EU.

The poll also reveals that while the majority of the public hold a positive view on the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine, a fifth believe its performance to be ‘very bad’.

This comes after the EU finally brokered an agreement to release a €50 billion financial aid package to the war-torn country earlier this month, after it was blocked in December.

Results of the poll show only one third of the public are in favour of Ukraine’s membership application being fast-tracked.

Membership negotiations began after the European Council agreed to begin accession talks in December. A month earlier, the European Commission had recommended that discussions should start. 

Just days after Russia launched its large-scale invasion of the country, in March 2022, Ukraine requested that its application be expedited.

In June 2022, the EU Commission deemed the application could be fast-tracked to “candidate status“.

This means Ukraine was seen to have a free market, a stable democracy, follows the rule of law, can accept all EU legislation and could implement the Euro by application assessors and other member states.

It was the first time an opinion on European Union candidacy had been given so quickly by the Commission and was approved by all 27 member states. MEPs in the Parliament have also voted in favour of EU enlargement with the inclusion of Ukraine as well as Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

When voting for enlargement in December, MEPs said they were not in favour of any applications being fast-tracked – saying that if the states fulfil all the criteria, it would prove their consistency and enduring commitment to the EU.

MEPs believed that not fast tracking these applications would ensure that the criteria around democracy, rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities, and economic reforms were adhered to and met.

In the current landscape the MEPs believe all three countries should be able to meet these obligations and criteria by the end of this decade and have asked for a roadmap to be drafted along this timeline.

Some internal reforms were agreed upon by parliamentarians, including the introduction of methods to make the process of enlargement smoother and more accessible such as qualified majority voting that would also apply to foreign and security policy decisions for applicants.

But there are concerns that Hungary’s presidency of the European Union Council and voting patterns across the bloc will see enlargement strategies scrapped or stalled.

Hungary, whose Prime Minister blocked the previously mentioned €50 billion aid package in December, has voiced its opposition to Ukraine’s membership.

It’s believed that with Hungary in a key-decision making position Prime Minister Viktor Órban’s influence could sway the EU away from further enlargement. 

Previous polling on voting patterns ahead of the European elections in June revealed a rise in support for far-right, populist candidates – currently expected to top polls in at least nine member states – which could also disengage the Parliament from enlargement strategies.

It found that the majority of these candidates were against key-pillars such as EU enlargement and support for Ukraine.

With strong opposition in the Parliament and Council, there is a risk these applications could be left behind – in favour of a more reclusive, inward-focused coalition.

Rate the response

Asked to rank the EU’s response to the war in Ukraine, on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being ‘very bad’ and 5 being ‘very good’, the average answer was 3. 

About two-thirds (67%) of the public ranked the EU’s performance as a 3 or above but just 13% deemed it very good/5. However, one fifth (20%) said the bloc’s response to the war in Ukraine was very bad, a 1 on the scale.

Intelligence from Norway yesterday suggested that Russia is gaining the advantage in the war in Ukraine owing to a greater number of troops and materiel supplied by China, North Korea and other countries.

While the results of the poll are similar to those conducted by Red C Research in September 2022, this latest poll from The Journal and Ireland Thinks has found that 39% of Ireland are not in favour of Ukraine’s application being fast-tracked.

A fifth of the Irish public said they were not in favour of Ukraine joining the European Union at all.

Some of this opposition came from those who identified themselves as left-leaning, socialist voters. The same group were most likely to hold a negative view of the EU’s response to the war.

However, there were also a significant cohort of Independent and Aontú voters who were against EU membership for Ukraine. This group made up around 15% of those surveyed.

Older voters were split. 80% of those over 65 supported Ukraine joining the EU with half of those in favour of Ukraine becoming an EU member supporting the idea of an expedited application, while the other half were against such fast-tracking. 

The views of younger voters – those aged between 18 and 34 years old – closely aligned to national averages in terms of support for Ukraine’s membership. Very few of any age group were unsure of their answer.

The Journal/Ireland Thinks series of polls will run each month ahead of the European parliament elections in June. It will continue to explore voter intentions, measure Irish public sentiment towards the EU on a number of issues and highlight any potential opinion gaps between different demographics of Irish society on matters important to them. 

The poll of 1,255 people was carried out between the 2 and 7 February and has a  margin of error of 2.8%.


This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

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