Hungary Skips Vote on Ukraine's EU Accession

EU

Hungary takes the position that Ukraine is not ready to start accession talks and for this reason did not participate in a vote on the issue, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's political director said at a European Union summit in Brussels late Thursday, according to a report by state news wire MTI.

Balázs Orbán told Hungarian journalists that Hungary had proposed that accession talks with Ukraine shouldn't start. 26 member states thought differently on the matter, therefore Hungary decided after talks to leave the meeting room and not participate in the vote, he added.

In that way, Hungary did not block the decision, but also takes no responsibility for it, Orbán said, adding that it was "the wrong decision". From this point on, the responsibility weighs on those 26 EU member states, he said.

Orbán said the Council had taken a "decision in principle" and member states would have to take a unanimous decision on putting together the concrete negotiation package at a later date. In the coming years, unanimous decisions will have to be taken at least 70 times in the course of the accession process, he added.

In a post on Facebook late Thursday, the prime minister said Ukraine was "not prepared" to start negotiations on EU membership. "It is a completely senseless, irrational, and incorrect decision to start negotiations with Ukraine under these circumstances, and Hungary will not change its position," Viktor Orbán said.

"On the other hand, 26 other countries insisted that this decision be made. Therefore, Hungary decided that if the 26 decide to do so, they should go their own way. Hungary does not want to share in this bad decision, and for this reason, Hungary did not participate in the decision today," he added.

According to a report by Politico, about three hours into discussions regarding Ukraine's accession, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz offered a tactical suggestion to the Hungarian PM. Scholz suggested that if Viktor Orbán was not inclined to support the initiation of discussions for Ukraine's EU accession, he might step out of the room for a moment. This proposal was made openly in the presence of other EU leaders during the summit, according to the report.

The strategy behind this recommendation was to enable the other 26 EU leaders to unanimously endorse Ukraine's pathway to joining the EU. According to EU regulations, unanimity is still considered achieved even if one leader is not present during the vote.

UPDATE - Hungary Blocks Aid to Ukraine

According to state news wire MTI, Viktor Orbán said Hungary had vetoed initiatives on a further EUR 50 bln of EU money for Ukraine as well as amendments to the EU budget. EU leaders could address the issue again at an extraordinary summit that could take place in February, he added.

He said the start of accession negotiations with Ukraine did not, in and of itself, hurt Hungary's interests, as there would be a chance to intervene later, but sending Hungarian money to Ukraine to continue the war would hurt the country's interests "immediately".

Orbán said it wasn't in Hungary's interest for the EU to take out joint credit. "We made an exception once and it didn't go well," he added, referring to the EU's joint credit taken out during the pandemic.

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