The leaders of the European Union (EU) decided Thursday in Brussels to open accession negotiations with Ukraine, despite the open opposition of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who ultimately did not use of his right of veto.
“This is a victory for Ukraine, for all of Europe, a victory that motivates, inspires and makes us stronger,” immediately launched Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, while the White House welcomed a “historic decision “.
The process will be long, of course, but the symbolism is strong for this country at war since February 24, 2022, the date of the start of the Russian invasion.
“History is made by those who never tire of fighting for freedom,” added the man who had urged the Twenty-Seven a few hours earlier not to miss this crucial meeting.
This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens. https://t.co/zk44CeL5Ui
— Volodymyr Zelenskyy / Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) December 14, 2023
For the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, this decision to open negotiations with Ukraine, but also with Moldova, is “a clear signal of hope for the citizens of these countries and for our continent”.
The decision was made without opposition. The Hungarian leader “was not in the room when the text was adopted, it was agreed with him,” a European diplomat who requested anonymity explained to Agence France-Presse. “It’s a pragmatic solution […] The political signal is given,” he continued.
In a video published on Facebook, Viktor Orbán then explained that his country did not want to “share responsibility” for this “insane” choice of the 26 other states and had therefore “abstained”.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed “a strong sign of support” for Ukraine which offers “a perspective” to this country. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of a “logical, just and necessary response” to the aspirations of his people.
Next issue: financial aid
A few hours earlier, Mr. Orbán had hammered home his refusal to accept that the EU opened negotiations with kyiv. “There is no reason to discuss anything, because the conditions have not been met,” he said combatively at the start of the summit.
The Hungarian nationalist leader is also still opposed to European budgetary support of 50 billion euros for Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zelensky was waiting, like millions of Ukrainians, for a signal of encouragement from Europeans, at a time when negative signals from Washington are multiplying.
For weeks, clouds have been gathering over Ukraine: its military counter-offensive has not produced a decisive breakthrough, and Western aid, essential to the war effort, has been blocked.
At the very moment when the crucial summit in Brussels began, Vladimir Putin, by contrast, displayed his confidence in a victory for Moscow. “Almost along the entire length of the contact line, our armed forces are improving their positions,” said the Russian president.
“If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is a real risk that his aggression will not stop there,” declared the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, in unison with several European leaders.
Hungary is demanding that the EU release all funds due to it, but which have been frozen due to breaches of the rule of law.
She obtained the release of 10 billion euros on Wednesday, after a decision by the European Commission which provoked the anger of MEPs. Several of them denounced the weakness of Brussels in the face of the “blackmail” of the Hungarian Prime Minister.
For her part, Moldovan President Maia Sandu also welcomed the decision of the Twenty-Seven.
“This is a victory for all of us […], a new page in our history. Two years ago, no one would have imagined such a scenario, she said on Facebook. Moldova, a former Soviet republic, has resolutely turned towards the EU since the election of Mr.me Sandu, end of 2020.
The EU also decided to grant candidate country status to Georgia and to open, under conditions, accession negotiations with Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili immediately welcomed this decision. “This day marks a huge milestone for Georgia and our European family,” she said on social networks, judging that the “unwavering will” of the Georgian people had been expressed.
The Twenty-Seven also approved a 12e package of sanctions against Moscow, which notably includes a ban on imports of Russian diamonds into the EU, and will also take measures to improve the effectiveness of sanctions concerning Russian oil.