Ukraine’s EU accession negotiations to begin after breakthrough at European Council

| Šaltinis:

The European Council has agreed to begin accession negotiations with Ukraine in a breakthrough at a high-level summit in Brussels. 

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban had been widely expected to block the move, but European Council president Charles Michel announced the development on Thursday evening. 

A spokesman for Mr Michel said “there was a decision on enlargement, which was not blocked by anyone”. A source told The Irish Times that that the successful outcome came “out of the blue”. 

The 27 leaders of the European Union also decided on Thursday to begin accession negotiations with Moldova. The bloc granted Georgia the status of candidate country. 

Mr Michael said it was a “clear signal of hope for their people and for our Continent”. 

Mr Orban arrived at the summit vowing to block the plans by his 26 fellow leaders to officially declare that membership negotiations with Ukraine can start. 

“The European Union is about to make a terrible mistake and they must be stopped – even if 26 of them want to do it, and we are the only ones against it,” he said in comments released by his office on Thursday. “This is a mistake, we are destroying the European Union.” 

The breakthrough will come as a relief to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is currently grappling with potentially dwindling support from The United States. 

[ EU’s decision to discuss membership with Ukraine and Moldova is momentous, but hurdles remain ] 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is in attendance at the summit, said the accession talks pathway had come faster than expected and that he respected Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s decision not to use his veto. 

“We’ve had a breakthrough, well certainly quicker than any of us expected,” he said. 

“That’s a real boost, a real boost for people living in those countries [including Moldova] to know that we here in the European Union believe that their place is here with us.” 

Mr Varadkar said the move also sent a significant geostrategic message globally, including to Moscow, that the EU stood for democracy and stood by Ukraine. 

Regarding Mr Orbán, he said the prime minister had made his case and still disagreed with the decision. 

“But essentially he decided not to use the veto power and any member state has the power to block accession, block enlargement, block talks with another country to join. And he took a decision not to do that and I have to say I respect the fact he didn’t do that because it would have put us, I think, in a very difficult position as a European Union,” he told RTÉ News. 

Mr Varadkar noted that it usually takes ten years or more for accession candidates to go through the process and that it was difficult to predict how long it would take. He also said Thursday night’s decision would give a morale boost for Ukrainians during the war. 

“Under the current treaties there’s no mutual defense clause. Ukraine is also seeking membership of Nato but that’s a separate matter,” he said. “But it does mean that over time they’ll become integrated into the European Union structures.”


Jennifer Bray, Mark Hilliard