Ukraine can overcome Hungary’s opposition to its EU bid, minister says

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Ukraine will be able to overcome Hungary’s political opposition to its bid to begin talks on membership with the European Union, Kyiv’s minister for European integration said on Thursday.

The European Commission this week recommended that the 27-member bloc formally start accession talks once Ukraine satisfies several remaining conditions, including boosting safeguards for national minorities.

EU member Hungary has said it would not support Ukraine’s European integration unless Kyiv changes its laws on minorities, in particular regarding education.

Budapest has clashed with Kyiv over what it says are curbs on the rights of roughly 150,000 ethnic Hungarians to use their native tongue.

Ukraine’s Hungarian minority was adequately protected and Ukrainian and Hungarian officials were working together on legislative changes recommended by Brussels, Olga Stefanishyna, the minister overseeing Ukraine’s European integration, said at a news briefing in Kiev.

“Any country that makes a conscious political decision, first and foremost, to block the decision regarding Ukraine will find a reason (to do so),” she said.

“Today, Hungary has made such a statement. We understand that there is a such a statement, but we also understand there is a dialogue with Budapest.”

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The recommendation by the European Commission is an important milestone on Kyiv’s road to Western integration and a geo-political gambit for the EU as Ukraine has been fighting a full-scale Russian invasion since February 2022.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last month the EU’s strategy for the war “has failed” and he saw no reason for Hungary to send its taxpayers’ money to support the war-hit country.

The European Council will decide next month whether to begin membership talks with Ukraine, which will require unanimous support among all 27 states.

Stefanishyna said bringing Hungary on side over the next month would be a challenge, but that she was “confident” Ukraine would succeed.

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