Internal Affairs / Ukraine’s swift accession does not serve the EU’s best interests 

Ukraine’s swift accession does not serve the EU’s best interests 

Ukraine’s swift accession to the European Union would have unfathomable consequences, and serves the best interests of neither Hungary, nor the European Union, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stated on Wednesday in the Hungarian Parliament.

In the general debate in Parliament of the resolution proposed by the government parties with respect to the subject-matter of the commencement of the talks regarding Ukraine’s accession to the European Union, Mr Orbán welcomed the fact that in the Hungarian Parliament a meaningful debate can be conducted on Ukraine’s EU accession.

He said “the stakes are high,” this debate affects not only the future of Hungary, but equally the future of the entire European Union. It is a question that determines Europe’s fate and future, but instead of a genuine debate, in the EU “we are banging our heads against a brick wall,” the Prime Minister said, summing up the situation. 

He recalled that last year Ukraine became a member candidate just four months after the submission of its accession request. The member candidate status is not a title that can be gifted, there are fixed conditions attached to it, and despite the non-fulfilment of these conditions, Ukraine became a member candidate as an exception, he highlighted. 

He added that since the first enlargement of the EU in 1973, in general, there have been periods of minimum three years between the submission of the initial application and the granting of the member candidate status; in the case of the enlargement involving the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, the phase that also included Hungary, there was a period of four years.

He said North Macedonia submitted its accession request in 2004, was required to wait for the member candidate status for a year and a half, and there have been no meaningful accession talks to this day. Montenegro submitted its application in 2008 and waited for member candidacy status for two years, while it took another year and a half for the accession talks to start. 

Serbia and Albania submitted their accession applications in 2009. Serbia was required to wait for the member candidate status for two years, and another year and a half for the commencement of the talks, while Albania had to wait for the member candidate status for five years and another six years for the commencement of the accession talks, he recalled.

Mr Orbán said “the undisguised bias” necessarily destroys the reputation of EU institutions; at times like this, the role of national parliaments gains in significance, at times like this, we need them in order to discuss whether the commencement of accession talks with Ukraine is a good idea.

At present, the position of the Hungarian government is – though the present debate may convince it of the contrary – that Ukraine’s swift accession to the EU would have unfathomable consequences, and serves the best interests of neither Hungary, nor the EU, he stressed.

He pointed out that the European Union must take its own rules seriously. If the European institutions do not take these rules seriously, the European Union “will quite simply cease to exist.” With Ukraine’s swift accession, the EU institutions will ask Member States, including Hungary, to do no less than to disregard our own rules, he added.

The Prime Minister reiterated that the European Commission had set seven specific conditions for Ukraine to receive the member candidate status. Additionally, in contrast to the countries that joined earlier, Ukraine received this status subject to fulfilling the relevant conditions subsequently.

The seven conditions included the reform of the selection of constitutional judges, a review of the High Council of Justice, increased measures to counter money laundering, guaranteeing media freedom, action against corruption, de-oligarchisation, and the enforcement of the rights of national minorities, Mr Orbán recalled.

He stressed that even the “biased” Commission said that only four of the seven conditions had been fulfilled. Meaning that Ukraine should not even have been granted the member candidate status, let alone be allowed to start negotiations, he pointed out.

In Mr Orbán’s view, however, in actual fact, not a single condition has been satisfied. International analyses available to the government claim no less than that even in the four areas approved by the European Commission, there have been setbacks, he laid down. 

He said the law on the reform of the selection of constitutional judges has not been implemented, while the legislation regarding the procedures of the constitutional court has not even been adopted yet. The criteria regarding the selection of members of the High Council of Justice and judges are unclear, and even in the Commission’s opinion, there is a need for the further development of the administrative system of the judiciary on the basis of an external, independent audit, he indicated.

The necessary decisions regarding the countering of money laundering have likewise not been adopted, and no one has been held accountable. At the same time, the regulations that have been adopted have remained unimplemented, he stated. 

He highlighted that the situation regarding the issue of freedom of the media and the press – a requirement allegedly met in the Commission’s opinion – is that, despite existing formal guarantees, with reference to national security considerations, the Ukrainian government has effectively done away with freedom of opinion and freedom of the press.

The Hungarian government’s position is that, in the case of a country at war, this is hardly objectionable. Nonetheless, this does not mean that “we Europeans should make ourselves a laughing stock by claiming that freedom of the press is observed in Ukraine;” the Commission, however, claims just that, Mr Orbán added.

In three areas – corruption, de-oligarchisation and the issue of national minorities – the conditions set have not been met even according to the European Commission, he stressed.

Mr Orbán further highlighted that there was no clarity regarding the actual content of the legislation adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament that allegedly favoured minorities. He recalled that the Hungarian community and other national communities living in Ukraine had been deprived of the rights they had previously enjoyed in 2015. 

Neither the Hungarians living in Ukraine, nor the Hungarians living in Hungary want any more than the restoration of the rights that the minorities living there enjoyed until 2015, the Prime Minister said in the parliamentary debate, adding that rather than the adoption of a new law, new solutions and complex procedures, all they ask for is the reinstatement of the law that guaranteed the rights and conditions of community life for the Hungarians of Ukraine until 2015. 

At present, the idea of any talks with Ukraine regarding its EU membership is absurd, ridiculous and lacking in seriousness; the Hungarian government has no intention of supporting it, Mr Orbán stated.

The Prime Minister indicated that at present no one knows what consequences Ukraine’s accession would entail; no one knows the actual territory and population with which Ukraine would join the community. 

He recalled that it was unprecedented for the community to engage in accession talks with a country at war. 

He also pointed out that even the partial opening of the market showed that Member States were required to implement protective interventions on a nation state level in the areas of agriculture and haulage in order to prevent “irreversible and irreparable damage.” Hungarian livelihoods in the tens or hundreds of thousands could be destroyed as a result, he underlined. 

At the same time, we would be required to give Ukraine 17 per cent of the current budget of the European Union in the form of grants, Mr Orbán added.

He informed Members of the House that, according to the estimates of German economists, Ukraine’s full EU membership would result in an extra expenditure in the magnitude of EUR 190 billion, the equivalent of HUF 70,000 billion.

In continuation, he said in agriculture alone, Ukraine could claim EU grants worth EUR 93 billion over a period of seven years, an amount that is higher than the amount France is eligible for as the country receiving the highest agricultural subsidies in the EU at present, and ten times higher than the amount Hungary receives.

He highlighted that, additionally, a considerable part of this sum of money “would end up in the Americans’ pockets, given that the Americans have bought large chunks of the Ukrainian agricultural sector.” As a result, the commencement of talks would mean that, other than Ukraine, all EU countries would become net contributors or 20 per cent agricultural subsidies would be taken away from everyone.

We should give Ukraine EUR 87 billion from the Cohesion Fund, he continued, three times as much as Hungary is entitled to on paper. 

Mr Orbán asked both the Left and national forces to look upon Ukraine’s EU membership as an overarching national issue, rather than as a party issue. In its present form, Ukraine’s EU membership is contrary to Hungary’s best interests, he stressed, pointing out that Ukraine can and must be helped, but no one can possibly want Hungary to be destroyed in the process.

He highlighted that “Hungary is under pressure, but we must persevere and remain a voice of European common sense.” 

We have a vested interest in a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine; however, this requires the restoration of peace within the shortest possible time and the carefully considered intensification of strategic partnership, he laid down. 

He added that this could – after the passage of many long years – even result in EU membership for Ukraine when the actual time came.

Everything has its own time; the time for Ukraine’s membership of the European Union is not here yet,Mr Orbán said in conclu


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