EU leaders agreed to start talks with Ukraine for its accession after Hungary’s Prime Minister changed his mind about opposing this important step for the country.
This decision is a significant milestone in Kyiv’s path towards joining the EU once the war with Russia has ended. It also represents an endorsement of the western direction that the country will take.
The EU is proposing a package of support for Ukraine, which will be discussed by the leaders at the summit in Brussels. This includes a fund of €50bn over four years, which comes from the shared budget.
The EU’s determination to continue to support Ukraine is now critical, given that the US Congress has failed to agree to a $60bn package proposed by the White House for Kyiv.
Charles Michel, the President of the European Council and the summit’s chairperson, said: “The European Council decided to open up accession negotiations with Ukraine & Moldova.” “A clear message of hope for both their people and our continent.”
He told reporters that it was important for no member state to oppose this decision.
Ursula von der Leyen called the decision “a strategic one” and said she was “proud we’ve lived up to our commitments.”
According to those briefed about the talks, the decision was made after Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban left the room to allow for agreement during the debate.
Orban posted on Facebook that “Hungary’s position is very clear.” Orban said on Facebook that Ukraine is not prepared. . . Under these circumstances, it is completely absurd, irrational, and wrong to begin negotiations with Ukraine.”
He said, “Hungary decided to let the 26 go their separate ways if they decide so.” Hungary doesn’t want to be part of this bad decision. Therefore, Hungary has not taken part in the decision today.
The leaders agreed to adopt the “negotiation frameworks” (first part of the process) after both countries had met the reform demands of the Commission, as laid out in its November report.
It can take many years to join the EU and more than 70 decisions are required. Any member state may block progress.
Orban threatened to stop both the beginning of membership talks as well as the financial package ahead of the summit, a position that exposed the fractured attitude towards Kyiv following almost 22 months war with Russia.
Zelenskyy responded to the EU’s move on the social media platform X by writing: “This victory is for Ukraine.” A victory for Europe. “A victory that inspires, motivates and strengthens.”
Along with Ukraine and Moldova the EU leaders agreed to begin accession talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina, pending an assessment by the commission in March of its compliance to membership criteria. Georgia has also been granted EU candidate status.
In addition to the ongoing debate over Ukraine’s support, EU leaders have also been arguing about a proposal for a budget increase.
The Netherlands and Sweden are leading a large group of wealthy members who have agreed to raise the budget to only help Ukraine. Others, such as Italy and Greece, want the capitals to provide a greater amount of cash for managing migration and other priority areas.
An EU diplomat who was briefed about the discussion said that “the discussions are tough but constructive.”
EU officials have begun technical discussions about an alternative solution for raising money for Ukraine outside of the common budget. However, they have publicly stated that their only objective is to convince Orban that he should drop his veto against this financial package. Officials say that an off-budget instrument will only last for one year and be more expensive. It would also take longer to establish.
“I am ready to negotiate.” “I have packed many shirts, [if] it is going to take us a long time,” said Finland’s Premier PetteriOrpo in reference to the meeting that was originally planned to last two full days. Supporting Ukraine is about “our safety and our credibility as a union.” Here, we need a strong resistance. “We must show our unity,” said he.