Will EU open accession negotiations with Ukraine before Hungary's presidency?

Wednesday, 22 May 2024 —

This week, Brussels and Ukrainian media have shared some genuinely positive news for Ukraine: the European Union has reached an agreement to officially open accession negotiations with Ukraine. According to Politico, it is proposed to start official negotiations on 25 June.

The date is crucial. On 1 July, Hungary will hold its six-month EU Council presidency, which significantly increases political risks and potentially threatens new delays. Therefore, Ukraine aims to secure the agreement by the end of June.

It seems though that the media reports about 25 June might not be entirely accurate.

Read more to understand what is going on with the negotiations between Kyiv and Brussels, whether Orbán will interfere into the process and what the implications of starting EU accession negotiations are in the article by Sergiy Sydorenko, European Pravda's editor - To have it done before Orbán: When and how Ukraine plans to open EU accession negotiations.


About a month ago, the EU Ambassador to Ukraine, Katarína Mathernová, acknowledged that Ukraine was ready to start negotiations on joining the European Union.

In fact, both Ukraine and the EU were ready to announce the official start back in February-March, and preparations were made by both Ukrainian and European bureaucracies.

In early March, the European Commission approved the draft of Ukraine's "framework" (EP reported on it in the article Kyiv will take the Albanian path to EU membership: details of Ukraine's negotiating framework emerge).

However, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that the EU would not start dialogue with Ukraine until after the European elections, meaning by the second decade of June.

There were no explanations, no reasons, just that it had to be this way. None of EP's sources could explain von der Leyen's motives. Typically, they responded with something like, "We don't understand either. It’s probably part of a larger political game."

Ursula von der Leyen wants to be re-elected as President of the European Commission for a second term, which requires her to gain the support of all or nearly all countries. This sometimes necessitates very unexpected concessions and compromises. It's likely that this is why Ukraine's plans were adjusted.

However, thanks to several European capitals, outraged by von der Leyen's initial statement, this bad scenario was avoided.

Brussels reported a compromise agreement that fully satisfied Kyiv: the European Commission and the Belgian presidency of the EU Council jointly committed to starting accession negotiations in the second half of June. That is, after the European elections (which turned out to be inexplicably important for von der Leyen), but before Hungary's presidency.

European Pravda sources are slightly optimistic and believe that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will not use his veto this time, as it is not in his interest to delay the Ukrainian issue into his presidency. All of Europe would pressure and blackmail him, demanding to start negotiations with Ukraine under the Hungarian presidency, which would be particularly humiliating for Budapest. Therefore, it’s believed that even Orbán would prefer Ukraine to get this prize in June, with the Belgians in charge.

Although the public sphere now mentions 25 June following the Politico publication, this date is highly unlikely. It's more likely that the approval of the negotiation framework, the announcement of Ukraine's negotiating position and the ceremonial start of negotiations will take place during the EU summit in Brussels on 27-28 June.

The discussion is about just a few days.

The main point is that the formal start of negotiations will not change much in reality.

Yes, it is fundamentally important for Ukraine to achieve this now and avoid the "feeling of delay."

But in reality, substantive negotiations will not start immediately. The most optimistic scenario, where Kyiv and Brussels open the first negotiation chapters and begin the negotiation process, is early 2025, when the new European Commission is formed and positions are defined. Moreover, Ukraine is not ready to start negotiations right now because it lacks government infrastructure and formed negotiation teams, etc.

So there is nothing wrong about it.

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