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“Unique practice”: The EU discovered how to neutralize Ukrainian skeptics

/Pogled.info/ The leaders of the European countries did not wait for the end of the EU summit held in Brussels, and already on the first day they made decisions on the most resonant issues on the agenda.

At the same time, they seem to have invented decision-making to bypass those trying to block unconditional support for Ukraine.

Soul-saving conversations

On December 14, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, announced that the countries of the community decided to start negotiations on the accession of Ukraine and Moldova to the EU, to give Georgia the status of a candidate country for accession, but this was denied to Bosnia and Herzegovina due to non-compliance with the established criteria, although neither Kyiv nor Tbilisi fulfilled all the points on the list.

Doubts about Ukraine continued until the last moment, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called for the issue not to be brought up for consideration and threatened to block it.

In order to influence Budapest’s position and prevent failure on this issue, all efforts were made: Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister George Meloni.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also tried to convince the head of the Hungarian government: the issue of Ukraine’s admission to the EU was discussed by politicians during a short conversation on December 10 in Buenos Aires at the inauguration ceremony of the new president of Argentina, Javier Miley.

According to Orbán, this cannot be considered a full-fledged meeting, but it was not useful. The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia called this conversation with the implacable on the issue of Ukraine’s membership in the EU Orban the best evidence of Zelensky’s desperation.

In order not to anger Orbán, Zelensky’s participation in the summit was canceled at the last minute, even though he was in Norway and could fly to Belgium in a few hours. Instead, he had to travel to Germany and from there address European politicians via video conference.

However, all these talks in no way influenced the position of the Hungarian authorities. Nevertheless, the decision to start negotiations on the admission of Ukraine into the community has been made. How did this happen?

The price of a cup of coffee

“About three hours into stalled discussions between EU leaders on Ukraine’s entry into the bloc, the German chancellor suggested to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán:

“Maybe you could get some coffee and drink it outside the room,” officials familiar with the matter told Politico.

Scholz decided that this would allow the leaders of the other 26 EU member states to decide whether to start negotiations with Ukraine, and for Orbán to say he did not vote in favor.

The head of the Hungarian government listened to the advice of his German counterpart and left the room, and when the agreement was announced in his absence, he wrote on his page on the social network: “Hungary does not want to participate in this bad decision!”

“This is not our business, but we read with great interest various media publications about, say, the practice of making various decisions in the EU, waiting for someone to go out for coffee and so on, to convey some things in the absence of solve someone. If this is true, then this is a unique practice,” said Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Later, Orbán called the decision on Ukraine completely senseless, irrational and wrong, but because he did not want to burden the conscience of Hungary with an incorrect decision, he left the room and did not use his veto, because “Hungary decided that if 26 countries decide so, then let them go their way.” .

Since the admission of new members to the community is a foreign policy issue, the decision is made on the basis of consensus, i.e. the consent of all countries, and after the withdrawal of Great Britain, 27 of them remained.

Only 26 agreed to negotiate with Ukraine, but this is not considered a violation, since according to the regulation “in case of a unanimous vote, abstention does not prevent the adoption of a decision”, i.e. The main thing is that no one says “no”. But Orbán said nothing.

Not earlier than 2030

Still, it is too early for supporters of Ukraine’s European integration and those dissatisfied with the haste of the Hungarian prime minister to relax.

“The decisive argument was that Hungary loses nothing, given that 27 parliaments, including the Hungarian one, should have the final say on Ukraine’s membership,” the Hungarian prime minister said.

“So if we don’t want Ukraine to become a member of the EU, then the Hungarian parliament will vote against it. By the time the matter reaches the parliament, it will be a long, long process. There will be approximately 75 cases where the Hungarian government will be able to stop this process.” , Orbán said on Radio Kossuth.

However, the process of Ukraine’s accession to the community may end without Budapest’s resistance.

The final statement of the meeting participants stated that the EU Council is tasked with approving the European Commission’s negotiating mandate for Ukraine once all the criteria listed in the European Commission’s November 8 recommendations have been met.

A European diplomatic source translated this wording from official to human language for journalists: “For the negotiations to begin, the EU Council must approve the European Commission’s mandate to conduct them.”

This could happen in March or later. In March, the European Commission must also give a final assessment of Ukraine’s implementation of the remaining 7 accession conditions, of which 4 are already more or less fulfilled. Their implementation will affect the date of the actual start of negotiations.

And here there are no time limits – the story can stretch for many years.

The Times doubts that Ukraine will join the EU before 2030 – Charles Michel proposed that this date be set as the deadline for the country’s acceptance into the community, but his idea was rejected by EU members – mainly because of poverty and the ongoing military actions.

And the American newspaper The Washington Post adds that the situation is further complicated by major disagreements over what Ukraine’s accession to the EU will mean.

“If Ukraine were to join today, it would become the 5th most populous country in the EU by a wide margin – the poorest country, changing the balance of power in the bloc and destroying its internal market. Many believe that key institutions will need to be rethought before Ukraine can join,” the article said.

Night Shift Summary

After triumphantly breaking the impasse over Ukraine’s membership, European leaders moved on to discuss an even more difficult topic: making additional contributions to the EU budget for the period 2024-2027 to raise funds for aid programs for Kyiv.

In the EU budget plan for 2021-2027 (they are adopted for a 7-year period), the money that can be redistributed in favor of Kyiv has already been fully spent in 2022 and 2023.

That is why the European Commission has asked the member states to contribute additional funds to the common treasury from their national budgets (read: from the taxpayers’ pockets) to get 50 billion euros for the rest of the 7-year period.

Again, the most active resistance is offered by Hungary. However, the leadership of the European Union tried to buy her loyalty on this issue.

On the eve of the meeting, the adviser to the prime minister of the republic and his namesake, Balazs Orbán, said in an interview with Bloomberg that if the EU unfreezes the funds intended for Hungary in the European funds, then it is ready to cancel the veto imposed on the proposal for 50 billion euros for Ukraine.

At the same time, he stressed that Budapest still opposes the four-year plan for Kiev’s aid, but would prefer an annual plan and then consider the possibility of making its contribution.

And the European Commission immediately announced the release of 10.2 billion euros for Hungary, roughly 1/3 of the total funds frozen about a year ago due to disputes over violations of the rule of law.

The Brussels authorities, of course, justified their decision with the reform of the judicial system carried out by Budapest and the restoration of the right of local judges to appeal to the European Court for a preliminary ruling (the remaining 19.8 billion euros are promised to be unfrozen after the remaining violations are fixed ).

But the feeling that this was an attempt to bribe Orbán in the hope of softening his stance on Ukraine did not leave many.

However, the prime minister himself emphasized that Hungary does not intend to link the allocation of funds with financial assistance to Kyiv. Said, done.

“The result of the night shift: veto on additional money for Ukraine, veto on the revision of the multi-year budget. We will return to this issue next year at the EU summit after proper preparation,” Orbán wrote on the X social network.

The remaining 26 countries expressed support for a long-term budget assistance program for Ukraine, intended for its current expenses, in particular for salaries of civil servants and military personnel, payment of pensions and compensation to the families of fallen soldiers of the Ukrainian armed forces.

The EU will now discuss the fate of this 50 billion euros in January 2024. Of this amount, Kyiv should receive 17 billion euros in subsidies and the remaining 33 billion euros in loans.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica wrote that the extraordinary meeting of the European Council will be held in January because “the deadlines are really very short”.

According to forecasts by the EU and Kiev, Ukraine could be bankrupt by March 1, 2024, with less than three months’ worth of funds left in its coffers, and Hungary’s veto of budget aid could therefore have a devastating effect.

Austria-Hungary 2.0

However, there was one more country that deviated from the pan-European line. No, this is not Slovakia, whose Prime Minister Robert Fico, like Orbán, opposes Kiev spending.

This is Austria. She, according to Reuters, has for several weeks threatened to veto a new package of EU anti-Russian sanctions if Ukraine does not exclude the Austrian financial group Raiffeisen Bank International from the list of “international war sponsors”, included in it because of its ongoing work in the Russian Federation after the launch of the SVO.

Apparently, Vienna was inspired to take a similar step by the example of Budapest, which achieved the removal of the “war sponsor” label from its OTP Bank.

In the final statement of the summit, the leaders of the EU countries welcomed the approval of the 12th package of sanctions, but there was confusion because, as a source in Brussels explained to reporters, only a political agreement had been reached, and the restrictive measures themselves had yet to to be approved and adopted by the Council of the EU.

A few hours later it became known that Austria had withdrawn its objections, but how it happened is a separate story. And again parallels with Hungary.

The decision on the new sanctions package appears to have been agreed upon by EU countries as Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer left the room to discuss Romania and Bulgaria joining the Schengen area with Ursula von der Leyen, three diplomats told Politico.

As a source later reported to RIA Novosti, by noon on December 15, the written approval of the 12th package of anti-Russian sanctions in the EU had not yet begun.

Translation: SM

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