By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has written European Council President Charles Michel to demand that Ukraine’s membership in the European Union be taken off the agenda at a summit next week.
In a letter to Michel, who will chair the summit in Brussels, Orban also warned against putting a review of billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine on the agenda, saying both topics are doomed to fail.
Orban urged Michel not to push for a decision at the European Council on these matters in December, “as the clear lack of consensus will inevitably lead to failure.”
He insisted that a “strategic discussion” was needed first about Ukraine’s EU membership and warned that forcing a decision could destroy EU unity.
The council “must avoid this counterproductive scenario for the sake of unity, which is our most important asset,” he said in his second letter to Michel in as many weeks about Ukraine’s prospective EU membership. But the letter did not say outright that Hungary would veto any moves to open membership talks with Ukraine.
Decisions on the enlargement of the bloc and a review of its long-term budget, which includes 50 billion euros ($54.1 billion) in aid for Kyiv, must be agreed unanimously by all 27 member countries. Ukraine is counting on the EU funds to help its economy survive in the coming year.
Michel’s office declined to comment on Orban’s letter, according to the AP.
Michel traveled to Budapest last week after Oban’s first letter in which he urged a change in strategy of the European Union’s policy toward Ukraine.
After meeting with Orban on November 27, Michel posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, stressing the importance of EU unity, saying it “requires constant effort and it’s our main strength.”
The European Commission, which supervises the enlargement process, last month recommended that Ukraine be allowed open membership talks once it addresses corruption, lobbying concerns, and restrictions that might prevent its minorities from studying and reading in their own languages.
Orban said allowing accession talks to start even though all preconditions have not been met would mark the end of the European Union’s enlargement policy “as an objective and merit-based instrument.”
Orban discussed his position on opening European Union accession negotiations with Ukraine last week in an interview with Hungarian state radio in which he said it was not currently in Hungary’s interest.
“I would favor the EU reaching a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine first,” Orban said, adding that such a partnership could take up to 10 years until Ukraine could adapt to the EU’s requirements.
“When we see that we can cooperate, then let’s bring up the issue of membership again, but that will be possible only after many, many years,” he said.
Orban is considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in Europe, and his nationalist government has argued against EU sanctions on Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.