MEPs have voted in favour of a motion urging member states to open the accession process for Ukraine to join the EU.

It comes ahead of a European Council meeting later this month where some countries, including Ireland, will be pushing for Ukraine to be granted candidacy status - despite resistance from France and Germany.

The motion, which is a recommendation to member states, also calls for the use of qualified majority voting in any decisions around sanctions against Russia.

This would mean a majority would be reached if 55% of member states agree to something.

The overall motion also encourages member states to increase defence spending.

It was supported by MEPs from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, but opposed by Sinn Féin's Chris Mc Manus as well as independents Clare Daly, Mick Wallace and Luke Ming Flanagan.

The motion "encourages member states to increase defence budgets and investment, and to acknowledge the NATO 2% of GDP target, in order to close existing capability gaps and ensure proper protection for EU citizens given the increased military threat in our immediate neighbourhood by Russia."

It asks member states to "grant EU candidate status as a clear political signal of solidarity with the people of Ukraine."