Countdown to EU Accession Talks: Will Ukraine Begin Negotiations on June 25th?

As the prospect of Ukraine's accession to the European Union looms closer, the pivotal question arises: will formal negotiations kick off on June 25th, marking a significant step in Ukraine's aspirations towards EU membership?

by Sededin Dedovic
Countdown to EU Accession Talks: Will Ukraine Begin Negotiations on June 25th?
© Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Brussels officials advocate for the start of formal negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the European Union as early as next month, writes Politico. Behind the scenes, diplomats from the EU and Kiev are intensively working to persuade the Hungarian government to consent to the opening of negotiations on Ukraine's accession.

Five diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the goal is to start formal negotiations as early as June 25. The opening of negotiations would bring a morale boost to Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian invasion for over two years and has long aspired to join the Western bloc.

EU leaders told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last December that they want Ukraine and Moldova to join their club, potentially leading to membership in 29 countries. But Hungary has retained the formal legal procedure to start accession negotiations.

According to diplomats, both Brussels and Kiev are engaging in intensive bilateral diplomacy with Budapest to address concerns about Hungarian minorities in Ukraine. After talks in April between Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to the Ukrainian president, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, "the parties noted a positive dynamic of dialogue," according to a Ukrainian summary.

Kiev responded to the 11-point list presented by Budapest and is awaiting Hungary's response, says one diplomat.

Victor Orban, Hubgarian Prime Minister© Omar Havana / Getty Images

One EU diplomat speculated that Hungary might want to remove the issue of Ukraine's accession negotiations before it takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU in July.

"There was a sense that this shouldn't be done before the European Parliament elections on June 9 because it could become an election issue," said an EU diplomat. "Now we are seeking to discuss this in June. If you're Hungarian, you'd rather resolve these membership talks before the presidency." Ukraine and its supporters in the EU are calling for an intergovernmental conference between Brussels and Kiev to be held before Hungary takes over the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been the biggest internal obstacle to EU's consistent support for Ukraine in the past two years. He has threatened several times to block decisions on EU funding to Kiev, as well as accession talks and sanctions against Russia.

Before agreeing to a negotiating framework, Budapest wants more guarantees about improving the legal protection of minorities in Ukraine.

EU: One of the biggest allies in wartime

So far, the EU has allocated €138 billion to Kiev in the form of financial, humanitarian, and military aid.

As an expression of support for Ukraine's reforms, the European Union has allocated €93.3 billion.

A woman walks past a tent displaying the European Union and Ukrainian flags in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine.

© Rob Stothard / Getty Images

Alone for strengthening the capabilities of the Ukrainian army, €28 billion of aid has been allocated (up to €31 billion by April). Six billion from the European Peace Facility, and €22 billion in the form of bilateral contributions from member states.

At the same time, 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers were trained between 2022 and 2023 as part of the EU military assistance mission. €17 billion has been made available for refugee reception. More than 4.2 million people who fled Ukraine have enjoyed temporary protection in the EU.

In the form of humanitarian aid, €3 billion has been allocated for Ukraine by February. The majority of the EU budget goes to regional development and agriculture, and poorer member states receive much more from the budget than they contribute.

All eight countries in the EU waiting room, including Ukraine, are far poorer than the EU average and all would be net recipients. The story of Ukraine is special, as Brussels opened up the prospect only under Russian invasion.

Ukraine would immediately become the largest agricultural power in the EU and would absorb a large part of the budget. EU member states have 157 million hectares of arable land, and Ukraine alone has 41 million hectares. Therefore, for many in the EU, Ukraine would be unwanted competition.

According to the calculations of the European Council, admitting all candidates to the EU would cost €256 billion in the seven-year budget period, with only Ukraine receiving €186 billion of that, not counting reconstruction costs.

Now the negotiating framework must be agreed or finalized within the Council of the EU, that is, the member states. And when they give the "green light" to the content of this framework, the first intergovernmental conference should be held, in which, in addition to the member states, Ukraine will also join.

This format will mark the official start of negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU, writes European Justice, one of Ukraine's leading portals. We will see what kind of response the Kremlin will have to the possible Ukrainian opening of negotiations on accession to the European Union.

Ukraine European Union European