A summit of EU leaders is held in Brussels on December 14–15. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has already mentioned its historic significance, namely with respect to supporting Ukraine and its European integration. His colleagues from Baltic and Nordic countries share this opinion, but others are not so enthusiastic.
Hungary is not the only EU member to question Ukraine’s swift progress that leaves behind countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is also a candidate but, unlike Ukraine, hasn’t been recommended for opening negotiations so far.
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, and Slovakia noted in a December 12 summit of European affairs ministers that "it is important that there is a balanced approach and the same standards and criteria are applied to all candidate countries". However, their position is not as point-blank as that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
The EU will start accession talks with Ukraine despite Orbán’s resistance
"The European Council has decided to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. The EU granted candidate status to Georgia. And the EU will open negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is reached and has invited the commission to report by March with a view to taking such a decision," wrote European Council President Charles Michel.
Interestingly, the decision was adopted without Hungary, which abstained from voting, by the unanimous vote of the other 26 countries. "Hungary doesn’t change its position," said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, adding that the other 26 member states insisted on making a step towards opening negotiations with Kyiv, and so he decided that if the 26 decide to do so, they should go their own way, while Hungary would stay aside.
Moreover, he left the meeting room when the leaders of the member states voted for negotiations with Ukraine.
Accession to the EU has six stages:
- Association Agreement;
- Becoming part of the official EU expansion program;
- Filing an application for accession;
- Being granted candidacy status;
- Accession negotiations, where the candidate has to conclude 35 acquis chapters;
- Accession itself.
Despite the consensus principle, the EU is divided
Hungary is undoubtedly the main impediment to Ukraine’s accession track. Despite the European Commission unblocking €10 billion for Hungary and attempts by French President Emmanuel Macron to persuade Orbán personally, he still insists that Ukraine fails to meet the criteria to open accession negotiations.
"Ukraine’s swift accession to the European Union would have devastating consequences for European farmers, the EU’s budget, and European security. It serves the best interests of neither Hungary nor the European Union; therefore we cannot support it!" Orbán wrote on Twitter (now X).
Moreover, he even opposes expanding the EU budget to allocate €50 billion for Ukraine’s fight against Russia. Orbán remains the only opponent to this measure, unlike other countries, which only oppose accelerated accession procedures for our country.
At the last moment, to prevent Budapest from blocking a key decision to start negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, European Council President Charles Michel, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Orbán on the morning of December 14, but it yielded no visible results.
Orbán’s contrarianism is counterbalanced by a potent pro-Ukrainian lobby
Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark, and Finland have all voiced similar statements: military and financial aid to Ukraine and the promotion of its accession to the EU concern Europe as a whole because the Ukrainian military defends European values. In addition, Russia's threat to other countries is absolutely real.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi urged the EU leaders to open membership talks with his country, warning that Europe would not understand if the meeting resulted in a "satisfied smile" for Vladimir Putin.
"I ask you one thing today — do not betray the people and their faith in Europe," he said in an address to the leaders.
Our allies also include top EU officials — Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen, and the European Parliament president, Roberta Metsola, who said that Ukraine’s accession to the EU would be a "win-win situation".
"Deals are always possible. So on enlargement, very clear, this is a win-win situation. Ukraine should be given the moral, political, financial support that it deserves, and we all need for our own security. Same with Moldova, same with Georgia and Bosnia Herzegovina," said Metsola.
The leaders of many countries have already greeted the EU on this decision, so the bloc managed to reach a consensus on the issue, despite Viktor Orbán. The next important issue is the expansion of the EU budget and the allocation of €50 billion to Ukraine. Hungary also opposes it, so the second day of the summit, December 15, will also be decisive.