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EU Council Approves Ukraine Membership Talks Amid Hungary’s Opposition

Hungary’s veto has temporarily halted a significant European aid package destined for Ukraine, a move that comes shortly after the European Union (EU) decided to initiate accession talks with Kyiv. While EU leaders are optimistic about resolving the aid issue in early 2024, Hungary’s stance reflects broader tensions. This development signals both progress and challenges on Ukraine’s path to EU membership.

Hungary’s Veto on Aid Package

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Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, confirmed his country’s opposition to the multi-billion dollar financial aid package for Ukraine during an EU Council session in Brussels.

This move effectively blocked the aid deal, drawing the sole dissenting vote among the 27 EU member states. The financial assistance was valued at 50 billion euros ($55 billion).

Dutch Prime Minister’s Hopeful Outlook

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Despite Hungary’s veto, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed optimism about the situation. He stated that Ukraine’s immediate financial needs could still be met, and funding discussions would resume in early 2024. 

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Talks To Resume Next Year

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Rutte added that the countries agreed funding talks would begin again early in 2024. He added that “given the state of play in the talks, I am fairly confident that we can get to a breakthrough early next year.” 

While he is hopeful for a breakthrough, he emphasized that it is not guaranteed.

Membership Talks with Ukraine

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In a significant development, the EU Council decided to commence accession talks with Ukraine, a step that has been anticipated for nearly two years since Ukraine’s candidacy was accepted. Ukraine’s aspiration to join the EU dates back over a decade.

Orban’s Reluctance and Non-Participation

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Prime Minister Orban, known for his close ties to the Kremlin within the EU, distanced himself from the discussions regarding Ukraine’s accession talks. He labeled the decision to initiate these negotiations as “senseless” and “irrational.”

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Hungary’s Concerns

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Orban indicated Hungary’s position in a post on X. “Hungary’s position is clear; Ukraine is not prepared to start negotiations on EU Membership,” he said.

He added, “On the other hand, 26 other countries insisted that decision be made.” 

Hungary Disagreed With The Call

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He further wrote, “Therefore, Hungary decided that if the 26 decide to do so, they should go their own way. Hungary does not want to share in this bad decision.”

Hungary’s veto on the aid package underscores the complexity of EU decision-making on these matters.

Decision Hailed By Majority

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Even though experts warn that there are still significant barriers preventing Ukraine from joining the EU, a number of European leaders celebrated Thursday’s decision as a significant step forward.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, called the decision “strategic” and “a day that will remain engraved in the history” of the European Union.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on X that “it’s clear these countries belong to the European family.”

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Challenges on Ukraine’s Path to EU Membership

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While EU leaders celebrate the initiation of accession talks, experts caution that significant obstacles lie ahead.

Ukraine will be subject to the Copenhagen Criteria, which assesses a candidate country’s economy, institutions, human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. Fulfilling these conditions, particularly during a period of conflict, is a formidable task.

The Acquis Negotiation Process

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If Ukraine successfully meets the Copenhagen Criteria, negotiations will proceed under the 35 Chapters of the Acquis. All EU member states must approve and ratify these chapters, marking a lengthy and intricate process.

Long Road Ahead for Ukraine

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While EU membership talks have begun, Ukraine faces a challenging journey that could span a decade or more. The road to EU membership entails rigorous assessments, negotiations, and ratifications, all of which must be navigated by Ukraine.

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