EU leaders want to start accession talks with Ukraine and provide it with financial support. Hungary’s Prime Minister threatens to derail both these decisions.
The EU summit that began on Thursday promises to be difficult and long. Heads of state and government are meeting in Brussels to give concrete support to Kyiv, with two decisions: to start negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the Union, increasing it to 28 members, and to guarantee it long-term financial support. But one EU country, Hungary, is threatening to veto both decisions.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban:
EU enlargement is not a theoretical issue, but a legally approved process, the details of which are carefully laid out. Candidate countries need to earn the right to join and fulfil preconditions. We have put forward seven such conditions for Ukraine’s membership. Even according to the European Commission’s assessment, three of them are not fulfilled. Therefore, there is no reason to even negotiate about it now.
The 26 other leaders in general and bilateral meetings are trying to convince Orban that EU enlargement and money for Kyiv are rational, but if the Prime Minister remains intransigent, they must find other ways to get closer to Ukraine and give it the support it needs. This would be reassuring to President Zelensky at a time when the US Congress is blocking funding for his country.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas:
Right now, let us focus on Plan A, which is still implementable. However, if we do not reach an agreement together, then we can think what other options remain.
One of the options is to provide 50bn euros in a simplified procedure to support Ukraine’s budget. This could be done without the approval of a single EU country, in this case Hungary.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte:
I think it is very important for us to make a decision on this 50 billion euro package, especially at a time when the US is concentrated more on domestic politics than helping Ukraine. It is essential to make a decision on both issues.
In addition, the EU enlargement process could take place in two stages: Ukraine’s full membership would be possible if it fulfils all the conditions and stops the war with Russia, as Hungary demands. The EU summit is also scheduled to discuss replenishing the union budget, which is sagging due to inflation and high interest rates. Germany and the Netherlands are willing to increase their contribution only if it goes to Ukraine. Besides, countries such as Italy and Greece would like to allocate more money for migration management and other purposes.