The EU opens accession negotiations with Ukraine. This was decided by the European Council this Thursday, against all odds, given that even upon his arrival in Brussels the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, had maintained the veto of the decision, which requires unanimity. In an unprecedented maneuver, the ultranationalist leader has left the room to allow the decision to go forward without having to vote. “We want to support Ukraine. It is a powerful political signal. We are on the side of the people of Ukraine. This decision by the member states is very important for the credibility of the EU,” said the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

“Ukraine’s accession to the EU is a bad decision. “Hungary does not want to be part of this bad decision,” Orbán later stated on his Facebook account to justify that he did not get to vote on that decision to which he had strongly opposed. “We have been together for eight hours. Hungary’s position is clear: Ukraine is not ready to start accession negotiations, it is complete nonsense, irrational and the wrong decision in these circumstances. And that is why Hungary is not going to change its position. On the other hand, 26 countries insist that it is the right thing to do. That’s why we have decided that if they want to do it, they do it their own way,” he explained in a video. During the negotiations, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has suggested the option of Orbán leaving the room.

Along with Ukraine, negotiations are also being opened with Moldova and, in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, they will be done when it meets thirteen of the fourteen pending conditions. Georgia also achieved candidate country status this Thursday. In March there will be a new evaluation of the degree of development of the measures that had to be put in place to formally grant the negotiating mandate to the European Commission. The road is long and arduous, so Hungary has more options to torpedo the process. Without going any further, the establishment of the negotiating framework for accession requires unanimity.

“This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires and strengthens,” said Zelensky after the decision of the European Council. A few hours earlier, he had addressed the EU leaders by videoconference with a speech full of messages for Orbán, which had also generated great discomfort in the rest of the European leaders. “If you are part of the decision, you agree with the decision, then you just have to keep your mouth shut,” said the Belgian Alexander de Croo about the reluctance expressed after the fact by Orbán.

“Don’t give Putin the first – and only – victory of the year. Europe must win, the agreements must be fulfilled and the words must matter,” had claimed the Ukrainian president, who has assured that Ukraine has not made “a single mistake” this year, thus defending the counteroffensive in the face of the doubts that some allies had, which they considered which had not been as decisive as they had predicted.

Faced with this situation, the EU had conspired to give Ukraine a boost in the form of opening negotiations, a gesture that was more political than technical, despite the fact that Brussels constantly maintains that accession is a process based on merits. In November, the European Commission issued its report evaluating the progress of the candidate countries to join the EU. In the case of Ukraine, he proposed starting negotiations (a procedure that is then delayed for years) once four of the seven pending requirements were met. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmitro Kuleba, assured his European counterparts this Monday that he had already approved three of the measures and that one (relating to lobbies) is being processed.

“Expansion is not a theoretical issue. Expansion is a merit-based and legally detailed process that has preconditions. We have set seven preconditions and, even with the Commission’s assessment, three out of seven are not met. There is no reason to negotiate Ukraine’s membership now,” Orbán had warned upon his arrival in Brussels.

Several leaders had previously tried to convince him. Michel traveled to Budapest a couple of weeks ago after receiving the first letter in which the Hungarian leader had left his refusal to open negotiations with Ukraine in black and white. Emmanuel Macron invited him to dinner at The Elysée. Pedro Sánchez telephoned him. This same morning, before starting the meeting at 27, Orbán held a meeting with the presidents of the European Council and the Commission, Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen, and the heads of Government of France and Germany, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz .

But beyond the words, the European Commission moved on to actions by unlocking 10.2 billion of the 22,000 that Hungary has frozen due to its authoritarian drift. The decision came just twelve hours before the leaders met in Brussels, although Orbán also maintained that he would veto progress towards EU enlargement and made it a condition for giving free rein to financial aid to Kiev that the government Community will deliver the other 11,000 million euros suspended due to violations of the rule of law and the first tranche of recovery funds.

He has finally given in on the first. Now European leaders have to roll up their sleeves to carry out the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework, with which they intend to give financial stability to Ukraine (with 17 billion euros in aid and 33 billion in loans). The fight is now over the amounts of ‘fresh money’ to finance issues such as immigration management, among others, and the details of how to fit financial priorities.


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