Brussels says Ukraine meets criteria to start EU membership talks

AFP , Friday 7 Jun 2024

The European Union's executive told member states on Friday that Ukraine and Moldova had met all the criteria needed to launch negotiations to join the bloc, officials said.

EU flags
European Union flags fly outside the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. AFP


A raft of EU countries are pressing the 27-nation bloc to formally start the talks on June 25 -- after leaders took the landmark decision to open negotiations in December.

But opposition from Hungary, the friendliest country to Russia in the EU, threatens to derail the move, which requires the unanimous support of member states.

The European Commission had laid out a series of reforms for war-torn Ukraine -- and its ex-Soviet neighbour Moldova -- to complete ahead of the start of talks.

In an update to EU ambassadors, the bloc's executive said Kyiv had fulfilled outstanding requirements, including efforts to curb the power of oligarchs and better ensure the rights of ethnic minorities.

"We consider that all the steps have been met by the two countries," a spokeswoman for the commission said.

"Now the decision is in the hands of the member states."

That issue of minority rights has been a key sticking point for Budapest, which has long complained about the alleged maltreatment of the Hungarian community in Ukraine.

But even if Brussels now insists Kyiv has ticked all the boxes, that doesn't mean Hungary -- which has repeatedly blocked support for Ukraine -- will sign off.

Pressure has grown to move Ukraine onto the next step in its quest for EU membership, in the face of fears that Hungary could stall progress when it takes over the EU's rotating presidency in July.

Ukraine and Moldova applied to join the EU shortly after Russia launched its all-out invasion in February 2022.

Starting the negotiations would still only put Ukraine at the start of what is likely to be a years-long process of reforms before it can finally become a member.

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