EU leaders decide to start accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova

The European Council has decided to start negotiations on Ukraine and Moldova’s accession to the union. This was announced by the head of the European Council Charles Michel at the end of the first day of the summit of EU leaders.

The EU leaders also decided to grant Georgia the status of a candidate for membership in the union. In addition, the EU will start negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina “as soon as the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is achieved”, Charles Michel added.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban abstained in the vote on the issue, in his own words. If he had voted against, as he had threatened to do earlier, the decision could not have been made. EU diplomats say Orban simply walked out of the meeting room before the vote, Reuters reports. The decision was eventually made in his absence.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had threatened to veto Ukraine’s EU accession talks, as well as the inclusion of 33 billion euros in EU budget loans and 17 billion euros in grants to help Ukraine. The country’s authorities then said Hungary would approve giving Ukraine the money if the EU in turn unfreezes €30 billion in aid to Budapest. The very next day, the European Commission unblocked a third of these funds – 10 billion euros. Brussels emphasized that this decision was not related to support for Ukraine.

Earlier, the EU suspended the transfer of 30 billion euros to Hungary because of problems with the rule of law and bribery in the country. To unblock the amount, Budapest needs to fulfill a number of requirements – from ensuring academic freedom to protecting LGBT rights and granting asylum to refugees. Budapest has since passed laws aimed at judicial independence.

The status of EU candidate countries for Moldova and Ukraine was approved by the European Council in the summer of 2022. The decision on the two countries’ applications, submitted almost synchronously shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was made unanimously.

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