Orbán says Hungary will block EU membership negotiations for Ukraine at a crucial summit this week

By Isaac M December 13, 2023

Hungary will block a proposal to start talks on European Union membership for Ukraine at a summit of the bloc’s leaders this week, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said Wednesday, adding that admitting the war-ravaged country would have unforeseeable consequences for the EU.

EU leaders are expected to vote on whether to begin membership talks for Ukraine during a summit in Brussels that begins Thursday. Orbán has maintained that he will block the proposal, which requires a unanimous decision by the leaders of all the bloc’s 27 countries.

Speaking to lawmakers in Hungary’s parliament Wednesday, Orbán said that the time for bringing Ukraine into the EU had “not yet come,” and that the development of a strategic partnership with Kyiv should be a prerequisite for beginning membership talks.

“We are interested in a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine, but this requires the establishment of peace as quickly as possible, and a deliberate deepening of the strategic partnership,” Orbán said, adding that such a process could take “a number of years.”

“Everything has its appointed time, but the time for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union has not yet come,” he said.

Beyond its promises to block Ukraine’s membership talks, Hungary has consistently signaled that it will veto a financial aid package for Kyiv worth 50 billion euros ($54.1 billion), a position that has frustrated Hungary’s EU partners who stress that aid for Ukraine and its eventual membership are crucial for Europe’s security.

Hungary relies on Russia for much of its energy supply, and Orbán is seen as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strongest ally in Europe. The government in Budapest has routinely blocked work on sanctions against Moscow linked to the war, and sought to gain access to additional oil and gas supplies from Russia.

On Wednesday, Orbán disputed a determination by the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, that Ukraine has fulfilled a number of requirements set as conditions for beginning accession talks. He also argued that Ukraine’s membership would reorient the system the 27-nation European Union uses to distribute funds to member countries, resulting in fewer funds for Hungary.

“The government’s position is currently that Ukraine’s rapid entry into the European Union would come with unforeseeable consequences. Ukraine’s fast-track accession does not serve the interests of either Hungary or the European Union,” he said.


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