EU decides to open accession talks with Ukraine – without Viktor Orbán

DThe EU has decided to open EU accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova, against Hungary’s wishes. In addition, as announced by EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels on Thursday evening, Georgia is set to receive candidate status for EU membership.

“This is a historic moment,” Michael said. “It shows the credibility of the European Union and the strength of the European Union.” Once the country fulfills the conditions for this, member states also want to start accession negotiations with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The EU Commission is expected to submit a report in this regard in March. Michael spoke of a “clear signal of hope” for the inhabitants of these countries and for the European continent.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pulled out of the EU summit. In a video posted on Facebook on Thursday, he called it a “totally senseless, irrational and wrong decision”. He abstained from voting.

Accession talks must be agreed by all 27 EU members. At the start of the summit, only Hungary voiced its opposition. According to EU sources, this was eventually averted by a “practical solution”: Orban left the meeting room to decide; It was agreed with him.

“The other 26 countries insisted on making this decision,” the Hungarian said. “So, Hungary decided that if the other 26 countries do this, they should go their own way.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Orban disagreed with the decision. But he decided not to exercise his right of veto. “We have now reached this agreement and Hungary has decided not to block.”

Rutte: “Joining will take years”

However, supporters of a positive outcome pointed out at the summit that the opening of EU accession negotiations should primarily be a symbolic measure. “Reconciliation will take years anyway. It’s about implementing the next step for a country that has worked so hard on reforms during a war that it also conducts for the EU,” outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at the start of the summit.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholes (SPD) saw the decision to open accession talks with Ukraine as a “strong sign of support” for the country, which has been attacked by Russia. He also welcomed the decision to open accession talks with Moldova at the same time. “One thing is clear: these countries belong to the European family.”

Ukraine and its smaller neighbor, Moldova, have long awaited a decision on the start of accession talks. The EU Commission recommended the move in principle in November, but the European Council has yet to agree.

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At the time, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained that the Commission had issued a favorable recommendation to Ukraine, despite conditions not yet being met, saying pending reforms had already begun. “The progress we are seeing in Ukraine is impressive,” he stressed at the time. He firmly believes that this will also strengthen Ukraine in its fight against the Russian war of aggression. On Thursday evening, van der Leyen hailed the “strategic decision”. With this, the member states made history, he explained.

The EU had already included Bosnia-Herzegovina as a candidate country at the end of last year. This is partly due to concerns that the Balkan nation of about 3.2 million people could otherwise turn to Russia or China. The EU already promised the country the chance to join in 2003, and it officially submitted its application for membership in 2016. However, in 2019, it was decided that it would get candidate status only if 14 reform requirements were met. The EU Commission has recently emphasized that this is even more important for the start of genuine accession negotiations.

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New economic sanctions against Russia

EU countries have also agreed to new economic sanctions against Russia. This was confirmed by EU Council President Charles Michel’s spokesman in the evening on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels. Among other things, it includes import restrictions on diamonds.

The EU Commission imposed a ban on the “direct or indirect import, purchase or exchange of diamonds from Russia”. It is aimed at rough diamonds and jewellery. In the EU, this particularly affects Belgium with its traditional diamond trading center, Antwerp. The Belgian government has long resisted the ban.

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Ukrainian soldiers train with the British Army in eastern England in November

In addition, the sanctions package includes measures to better enforce the price cap on Russian oil exports. Import bans are also planned for other goods that Russia replenishes its war chest. This includes autogas, also known as camping gas in Germany (liquefied petroleum gas, LPG).

In addition, other responsible parties and companies or institutions should be included in the sanctions list. You face entry barriers and assets in the EU may be frozen. According to the EU Commission, these include other members of the Russian armed forces and those responsible for the IT sector.

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