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“Historic moment” as European Council decides to open accession talks with Ukraine

Hungarian PM Orban stepped out of the room as the decision was being made
European Council President Charles Michel (l) and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in Kyiv during the EU-Ukraine Summit, 3 February 2023. Credit: president.gov.ua

In a stunning reversal of expectations, the EU member states decided to start EU accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova on the first day of the EU Council Summit in Brussels, President of the European Council Charles Michel has announced.

“The European Council has decided to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova.

#EUCO 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.

A clear signal of hope for their people and for our continent,” Michel wrote on X.

“Tonight we are on the side of the Ukrainian people. We have worked a lot to prepare for this summit, many mistakes were avoided,” noted Michel, European Pravda reported.

According to him, EU leaders are continuing to work on the negotiation framework, and the discussions are challenging.

“And I am confident that in the next few hours, we will be able to make a decision on this issue. We will continue to support Ukraine,” added the President of the European Council.

Charles Michel Brussels EU Council
EU Council President Charles Michel after the decision to start membership negotiations with Ukraine in Brussels. Photo: European Pravda

Michel called today’s decision a “historic moment” that demonstrated the strength of the European Union.

“This is a very powerful political signal and political decision,” he emphasized.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the European Union for the decision, saying that “history is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom.”

“The European Council’s decision to open EU accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova has been adopted. I thank everyone who worked for this to happen and everyone who helped. I congratulate every Ukrainian on this day.

I also congratulate Moldova and personally Maia Sandu. History is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom,” Zelenskyy wrote on social media. 

Moldovan President Maia Sandu wrote on X/Twitter:

“Moldova turns a new page today with the EU’s go-ahead for accession talks. We’re feeling Europe’s warm embrace today. Thank you for your support and faith in our journey.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised his fellow leaders for demonstrating a “strong sign of support”, adding that it was evident that both Ukraine and Moldova were integral members of “the European family”.

Hungary has consistently been reluctant to initiate talks with Kyiv but did not exercise its veto power. Prime Minister Viktor Orban briefly exited the room, following a pre-arranged and constructive plan, as the remaining 26 leaders proceeded with the vote, according to BBC.

Later, Orban distanced himself from other EU leaders with a video message on Facebook:

“EU membership of Ukraine is a bad decision. Hungary does not want to participate in this bad decision, and therefore stayed away from the decision today.”

According to Euronews, Estonian PM Kaja Kallas said the moment had occurred “against all odds,” while her Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, said the decision “will be a big boost for morale to know that Europe believes their rightful place is with us in our common home.”

On 14 December, the Ukrainian leader arrived in Germany for an unannounced visit after a week of foreign trips for Zelensky, including stops in Argentina, the United States, and Norway.

Zelenskyy visits Germany amid EU talks on Ukraine support in Brussels

According to European Pravda, “Zelenskyy wanted to be present in person at the EU summit in Brussels,” where Ukraine’s bid for EU membership and long-term financial support are being discussed.

Ukraine and Moldova submitted their applications for EU membership after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. In June of the same year, both countries were granted candidate status, while Georgia was not selected for candidacy at that time.

Today’s decision represents the initial phase in a lengthy and intricately technical process, which may extend over several years before culminating in full-fledged membership.

The news was updated with details about Michel’s and Sandu’s statements

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