The European Commission’s announcement that it is prepared to move forward with accession talks for Ukraine is “absurd” and the EU’s enlargement policy should “serve to expand peace and not to bring war” into the bloc, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has said.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a press conference on Wednesday that Kyiv had completed “well over 90 percent of the necessary steps” required for preparatory membership talks to begin and recommended these discussions begin immediately after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Dec. 14.
Responding to the announcement, Szijjártó insisted Hungary was adamant that until there is peace in Ukraine the country should not be eligible for EU membership.
“With Ukraine, war would enter the European Union, which we obviously do not want, we cannot want. Enlargement should serve to expand peace, and not to bring war into the European Union,” Szijjártó said as cited by the Magyar Hírlap newspaper.
❗️FM Szijjártó expressed concerns that Ukraine is not ready for EU membership due to ongoing conflicts, which could bring war into the EU.— Zoltan Kovacs (@zoltanspox) November 8, 2023
❗️He emphasized Ukraine's failure to meet EU candidate criteria and highlighted violations of minority rights.
❗️FM Szijjártó also called… pic.twitter.com/BYS5Zq3TPc
“Therefore, we do not currently consider any progress regarding Ukraine’s accession negotiations to be timely,” he added, landing a hammer blow to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ambitions.
The Hungarian foreign minister expressed several other concerns regarding Ukraine’s political landscape, accusing the country of lacking “media freedom” and “freedom of speech,” and highlighting its democratic deficit that “elections are not held either.”
He claimed it would be “absurd” for EU member states to be asked to consider a membership application from such a country.
Szijjártó also claimed that Kyiv is currently in violation of the European Union’s principles regarding the rights of national minorities with particular reference to the ethnic Hungarian community in its Transcarthpathian region, an issue that the European Commission also acknowledged on Wednesday.
“We Hungarians continue to expect Ukraine to return to the Transcarpathian Hungarian community all the rights it already had in 2015,” he said.
Other countries are far more deserving of progressed talks on EU membership in the eyes of the Hungarian government, including Serbia and Georgia. According to Szijjártó, Serbian membership “is a process that has been unfinished for 20 years” and “the place of the Western Balkans is clearly in the European Union.”
He added that Hungary’s neighboring nation would bring momentum and new energy to an ailing European Union.
“Therefore, the new accession chapters must be opened as soon as possible, the process must be continued as quickly as possible, and it must be completed as quickly as possible,” he said.
The remarks imply Ukraine will hit a considerable stumbling block when EU leaders discuss the matter in Brussels next month, despite the European Commission wanting to draft and submit the negotiating framework to member states by March next year.
President Zelensky, however, appeared undeterred. In a video address to the nation on Wednesday, he said “the history of Ukraine and the whole of Europe” had taken “the right step” and he expected a positive response from the European Council next month.
“Ukrainians have always been and are part of our common European family. Our country should be in the EU. Ukrainians deserve this for their protection of European values and the fact that even during a full-scale war, we keep our word by developing state institutions,” he added.