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Ukraine ready for EU membership talks, Brussels says -Dlight News

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The European Commission has recommended that the EU start accession talks with Ukraine this month, in an effort to signal support to the war-torn country before Budapest takes over the rotating presidency of the bloc, according to people familiar with the matter.

Kyiv applied for EU membership in the weeks following Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022 and was granted candidate status a few months later, in one of the fastest decisions by the bloc, catalysed by Moscow’s aggression.

Russia’s war has prompted an overhaul of the EU’s enlargement process, as Ukraine and Moldova became candidate countries in June 2022 and Georgia in late 2023, while talks with some of the six western Balkan candidates have accelerated after years of stasis.

The commission is pushing for formal talks to begin with Kyiv and Chișinău, capital of Moldova, this month to give a positive signal to both countries on their EU aspirations.

On Friday it told a meeting of member state ambassadors that Ukraine now met previously outstanding criteria including anti-corruption measures, restrictions on political lobbying, rules on asset declarations for public officials and protection of languages used by national minorities.

Georgia, which in recent weeks adopted a “foreign agents” law in defiance of Brussels’ warnings, did not get the green light.

Brussels’ recommendation requires unanimity from all of the EU’s 27 governments and Hungary promptly raised objections at the meeting on Friday, according to an official familiar with the talks. Budapest argues that Kyiv needs to do more for the rights of ethnic Hungarians living in Ukraine.

A formal debate on whether to agree to start talks would be held next week, said two officials.

Spokespeople for the Hungarian government did not respond to requests for comment.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in December relented in his veto of Ukraine’s accession bid, saying he would have plenty of opportunities to block it further down the road.

He has in the past held up other decisions related to Ukraine, including giving the country EU candidate status and delaying a $50bn aid package.

While it has eventually relented under pressure from other capitals, Budapest has this year refused to drop its veto on setting aside EU cash to provide military aid to Kyiv.

Hungary will take over the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1, which will give it additional leverage in setting the agenda of meetings where Ukraine-related matters are discussed.

Belgium, the current holder, is pressing ahead hoping to achieve unanimity and hold the initial round of accession talks on June 25, before it hands over the baton to Hungary.

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