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Hungarian Prime Minister Orban wants European leaders to postpone decisions on Ukraine’s EU accession

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asked in a letter to President Charles Michel to remove the accession negotiations with Ukraine and financial support for Kiev from the agenda of next week’s European summit.

“I respectfully ask you not to ask the European Council in December to decide on these issues as the clear lack of consensus would inevitably lead to failure,” Orban wrote to Michel. “The European Council must avoid this counterproductive scenario in the interests of unity, our greatest asset.”

On December 14 and 15 in Brussels, European leaders will consider a recommendation from the European Commission to open accession negotiations with Ukraine. In addition, they also talk about long-term financial support for Ukraine. As part of a mid-term review of the multi-annual budget, the Commission has proposed an envelope of up to EUR 50 billion until 2027.

Orban is the only head of government in the European Union who has maintained close ties with the Kremlin after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Strengthened by the difficulties of the Ukrainian army on the battlefield and doubts about US support for Kiev, the right -populist prime minister increasingly loudly questions the European attitude. He calls for a “strategic discussion” about relations with Ukraine.

Veto power

It is already the second letter in a short time that Orban has sent to Michel to reinforce his plea. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo regrets this state of affairs. “It is better to speak around the table than to send letters that are widely shared in the media,” he responded on Tuesday at the Federal Advisory Committee for European Affairs. “It shows that we are starting to reach the limits of our decision-making model.”

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Orban has a veto right when it comes to the opening of accession negotiations. The additional money for the multi-year budget must also be approved unanimously. There is very strong support for continued support to Ukraine, but many Member States have little sympathy for other Commission desiderata, such as extra money for migration, and argue for savings and reallocations within the current framework.

Strong signal

Belgium also shares this opinion. For De Croo it is clear that European leaders must send “a strong signal” to Ukraine, financially, militarily and politically. “Starting accession talks would be an important signal at a difficult time,” he believes. The Prime Minister warns of a weakening of European support. “The price in terms of freedom and security can be great.”

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