Major breakthrough for Ukraine as EU agrees to open talks for country to join

The 27 European Union leaders have agreed to open talks for Ukraine and Moldova to join the bloc in a massive breakthrough. Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said the decision was “a clear signal of hope for their people and for our continent.”

This is a massive victory for Ukraine after the eastern European country applied for membership in February 2022, just days after Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the news and issued a statement on social media. He wrote: “This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens.”

The move comes as Hungary and EU leaders have been at loggerheads for the past few weeks amid fears Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will use his veto to stop key decisions. This week the Hungarian PM confirmed his opposition to offering Ukraine a fast-track accession.

A diplomat said: “The problem is we donโ€™t know his game. Is it classic Orban, with very, very harsh positions and then a deal? Or is it a longer term play โ€ฆ the sense is itโ€™s very different this time.”

The decision, which was achieved during a summit with EU leaders in Brussels, was nearly thrown into chaos when Orban questioned Ukraine’s readiness to start accession negotiations. He said upon arrival on Thursday: “Enlargement is not a theoretical issue, it’s a merits-based, legally detailed process, which has preconditions.

“If you haven’t fulfilled the preconditions, there is no chance to start the negotiations. We have to come back later on and revert to that issue again when it is fulfilled by the Ukrainians.”

Orban had told Hungary’s National Assembly on Wednesday that he would block any proposal to begin talks on Ukraine’s EU membership bid at the summit in Brussels.

It is not yet clear what made the Hungarian Prime Minister lift his veto.

Along with Ukraine and Moldova, the EU “will open negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is reached”.

The bloc has also granted Georgia the status of a candidate country.

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