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Jun 7, 2024, 1:20pm EDT
politicssecurityEurope
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Semafor Signals

EU ready to start Ukraine membership talks, but Hungary remains an obstacle

Insights from Chatham House, The Parliament, and the Centre for European Reform’s Ian Bond

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Reuters/Viacheslav Ratynskyi
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The News

The European Commission on Friday recommended that EU accession negotiations with Ukraine begin this month, with the first round of talks starting June 25, the Financial Times reported.

The EU is pressing ahead with the move in an effort to boost support for Kyiv before Hungary — which has consistently opposed Ukraine’s bid for membership — assumes the bloc’s presidency in July.

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The Commission told ambassadors Friday that Ukraine and Moldova had met the criteria for starting negotiations, but Hungary reportedly raised objections at the meeting.

All 27 member states have to agree to the negotiating framework before talks can begin.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

The EU may have gotten over its ‘enlargement fatigue’

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Sources:  
Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Chatham House, The Parliament

Since Croatia joined the EU more than a decade ago, the bloc’s so-called “enlargement fatigue” has slammed the brakes on further expansion. Despite Ukraine’s political leverage, Kyiv’s leaders should not be “overconfident” in their ability to expedite the years-long accession process without treaty reform, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies argued. That said, the EU may be turning to “defensive enlargement” to stave off regional threats after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a Chatham House expert noted: Ukraine was granted candidacy just a few months after applying for membership, without the “detailed impact assessment” normally necessary, a former European Commission official told The Parliament.

Hungary could make the negotiations ‘complicated, bloody, and long’

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Source:  
Centre for European Reform's Ian Bond

The Commission’s attempt to speed up the start of negotiations is symbolically important but will make little practical difference, Ian Bond from the Centre for European Reform told Semafor Friday. Hungary has every opportunity to make the negotiating process “complicated, bloody, and long” whether in the president’s chair or not, he said. The Commission might also be wary about being seen as giving in to “blackmail” from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who may allow talks to begin only in exchange for the release of EU funds earmarked for Hungary that were frozen over rule-of-law concerns. And there’s little chance of the EU invoking Article 7 to suspend Hungary’s voting rights because Slovakia at least is unlikely to agree, Bond added.

Ukrainian accession may open up new wave of enlargement

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Sources:  
European Centre for International Political Economy , Bertelsmann Stiftung, Brookings Institute

The EU has “already confronted and overcome” some of the challenges associated with integrating Ukraine into the bloc, an economist at the European Centre for International Political Economy argued: Like Ukraine, Romania was very poor relative to the EU average when it first applied to join, an expert wrote for Bertelsmann Stiftung. But Ukrainian accession may open up a new wave of expansion for other countries bordering Russia, which would dramatically reduce the amount of financial aid available to current EU members and change some from net recipients to net creditors, the Brookings Institute wrote.

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