On the brink of the EU summit, the European Union has delivered a surprising turn of events. The European Commission announced a breakthrough by unlocking 10 billion euros for Hungary, a sum that had been withheld due to rule-of-law concerns. This move, strategically timed just before the summit, adds an unexpected twist to the unfolding dynamics within the bloc. The decision to release funds to Hungary precedes discussions on financial aid to Ukraine, a topic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had previously vowed to veto. Orbán's stance had posed a challenge to the unity of the EU in supporting Ukraine's accession talks. The sudden release of funds to Hungary introduces a new element to the negotiations, potentially influencing the dynamics of the discussions on Ukraine's membership.
In a surprising turn of events, the European Union has decided to initiate membership negotiations with Ukraine, providing a significant victory for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and dealing a setback to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The announcement came after eight hours of tense negotiations in Brussels on Thursday, defying the opposition from Hungary and its Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, who had previously threatened to veto any talks of accession.
The decision, which required unanimous approval, proceeded with Orbán absent from the room, a move diplomats suggest was prearranged as he was aware of the overwhelming support from the other 26 member states. The decision marked a departure from Orbán's previous strong stance, where he had criticised Ukraine as "one of the most corrupt countries in the world.” European Council President Charles Michel, who chaired the summit, described the decision as "a clear signal of hope for their people and our continent," emphasizing its historic significance for the strength and credibility of the European Union.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy hailed the decision as a victory for Ukraine and all of Europe, expressing motivation and inspiration. The unexpected move comes at a critical juncture for Zelenskyy, who has been seeking support from the US for a $61 billion military aid package for Ukraine. In a positive development for Ukraine, the US Senate announced a delay in its holiday break to vote on military aid for the country. Negotiations for Ukraine's EU membership are set to commence in March, coinciding with a report on the final changes Ukraine must undertake. The decision signals a strong political commitment from the EU to support Ukraine in its quest for closer ties.
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has blocked a vital €50 billion EU aid package for Ukraine just hours after EU leaders approved talks on Ukraine's membership. The late-night move left the EU in disarray, with Orbán's refusal to green-light funding for Ukraine's government over the next four years. Despite this setback, EU leaders aim to revisit the issue in January, hoping for Orbán's support.
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