BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that “very difficult questions” needed to be answered before the European Union could begin membership talks with Ukraine.
EU countries are due to decide in December whether to allow Ukraine to begin accession negotiations, which will require unanimous support from all 27 members. Diplomats said Hungary may be an obstacle.
“We cannot avoid the question – when will we hold negotiations in Brussels during the fall about the future of Ukraine – and whether we can seriously consider membership of a country, to start accession talks with a country at war,” Orban said. radio.
He added: “We do not know the size of this country’s territory, as the war is still ongoing, and we do not know the size of its population as they are fleeing… to accept a country’s accession to the European Union without knowing its features.” This would be unprecedented.
“So I think we need to answer very long and difficult questions in order to actually make a decision about starting accession talks,” he said.
Commenting on Orban’s statements, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that it was positive “that the Hungarian Prime Minister is concerned about Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.”
The ministry added: “We would like to know that Ukraine has not changed its territory within its internationally recognized borders.”
Orban maintains warmer relations with Moscow than many of his peers in the European Union, and has repeatedly clashed with Kiev, including over the right of people of Hungarian origin to learn in their mother tongue after Ukraine passed a law in 2017 restricting the use of minority languages in schools.
Orban told parliament on Monday that Hungary would not support Ukraine on any issue related to international affairs until the linguistic rights of ethnic Hungarians there were restored.
Hungary is a member of NATO and opposes the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Hungary refused to ship weapons to Ukraine, but welcomed Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.
(Additional reporting by Christina Thanh; Additional reporting by Yulia Disa in Kyiv; Editing by Mark Potter, Susan Fenton, Peter Graff)
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