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Home ยป EU To Open Membership Talks With Ukraine And Moldova

EU To Open Membership Talks With Ukraine And Moldova

Image source, Getty Images

By Jessica Parker in Kyiv & Paul Kirby in London

BBC News

European leaders have decided to open EU membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova and to grant candidate status to Georgia.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the decision, made at a summit in Brussels, as “a victory” for his country and Europe.

A spokesperson for Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said that agreement was unanimous.

Hungary has long opposed talks starting with Kyiv, but did not veto the move.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban left the room momentarily in what officials described as a pre-agreed and constructive manner, while the other 26 leaders went ahead with the vote.

He then distanced himself from his colleagues 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.”

Mr Zelensky was delighted by the EU’s announcement: “This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires and strengthens,” he said on X.

Ukraine and Moldova applied to join the EU after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. They were both given candidate status last June, while Georgia was passed over at the time.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu said it was an honour to share the path to EU accession with Ukraine. “We wouldn’t be here today without Ukraine’s brave resistance against Russia’s brutal invasion,” she wrote.

Talks on joining the European Union can take years, so Thursday’s decision will not guarantee Ukraine membership. People in Ukraine know that the path to full membership is a long one, but this decision in Brussels will be a boost for morale.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised his fellow leaders for showing a “strong sign of support”, adding that it was clear that both Ukraine and Moldova belonged to “the European family”.

This was some much-needed good news for Ukraine, after almost 22 months of Russia’s war and a continuing struggle to secure Western military and financial aid.

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said it was a historic moment and an “important message of hope” for the citizens of Ukraine and Moldova.

Mr Zelensky travelled to the US earlier this week in a vain attempt to persuade the US Congress to push through $61bn in military funding, blocked by Republican lawmakers.

Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia’s occupying force has ground to a halt at the start of winter.

Earlier on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin mocked Ukraine and claimed Western support was running out: “Excuse my vulgarity, but everything is being brought in as a freebie. But those freebies could run out at some point.”

But President Zelensky will at least now be able to point to this political win as proof that Ukraine is not steadily being abandoned by its partners.

Many in Kyiv see their fight against Russia’s invasion as a defence of European values and they firmly view their future as an active and effective member of the European Union.

Ukraine’s 2014 “Revolution of Dignity”, toppling its pro-Kremlin president, was rooted in a desire to move away from Russia’s political orbit and towards Europe.

President Putin reacted by sending troops into eastern Ukraine and Crimea and then staging a far wider invasion in 2022.