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Zelenskyy's address and efforts to reach out to Orban: Insights from EU summit

Zelenskyy's address and efforts to reach out to Orban: Insights from EU summit There is a struggle in Brussels for the EU decision to open negotiations with Ukraine regarding accession (Photo: Getty Images)
Author: Daria Shekina

The European Council meeting is underway in Brussels, addressing crucial matters regarding Ukraine among EU leaders. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in turn, is attempting to throw a wrench into the works, but bloc members are still striving for consensus. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr has delivered an important message via video link.

For updates on the EU Council and the latest news from the meeting of European leaders, read RBC-Ukraine's article below.

Sources for this material include Politico, The Guardian, la Repubblica, statements from European leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov.

The EU summit might be prolonged

With a delay of an hour and a half, the European Council meeting has commenced, scheduled for December 14-15.

During this session, EU leaders are to decide on commencing negotiations with Ukraine regarding membership.

Additionally, there might be a vote on a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine for the period of 2024-2027.

However, Politico suggests the summit might overrun its planned duration. The leaders anticipate challenging negotiations due to discussions on critical decisions concerning Ukraine.

Earlier today, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar mentioned to journalists that leaders might debate until Saturday or Sunday.

Furthermore, on Wednesday evening, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas stated that leaders might risk spending Christmas in Brussels if no agreement is reached regarding financing Ukraine's defense.

L​​eaders of the EU are striving to overcome the barrier posed by Hungary

The main issue at the meeting lies in Hungary's position, attempting to block both Ukraine's accession negotiation process and the allocation of new funds.

Upon arrival at the summit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban persisted with his stance.

"We have set up seven preconditions and even by the evaluation of the commission, three out of the seven are not fulfilled. So there is no reason to negotiate membership of Ukraine now," Orban stated while addressing journalists.

However, when directly asked if he is against Ukraine's EU accession, Orban replied, "No." According to him, this matter should be postponed until the European Parliament elections in June 2024.

Nevertheless, European leaders still hope to persuade Orban to change his position.

Today, media have reported that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will have a working breakfast with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Politicians will once again try to convince Orban to agree on decisions regarding the allocation of €50 billion in financial aid to Ukraine by the EU, as well as the start of negotiations for Ukraine's EU accession.

Zelenskyy's address

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also addressed the meeting. He has noted that in case of hesitation among EU leaders, the summit's outcomes would be a victory for the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Zeleskyy believes that today is the day when "determination will either be in Brussels or Moscow," stating that "people in Europe won't understand if Putin's satisfied smile becomes the reward for a meeting in Brussels."

Zelenskyy has mentioned that before the summit, he held a series of talks with EU leaders, and "I haven't heard any counter-argument as to why we shouldn't implement the plan agreed upon by all of Europe." He has referred to the EU members' consent to the calendar plan for Ukraine's progression toward the EU, previously approved by the European Commission.

"10 years ago in Ukraine, people rose up under the flags of the European Union … I ask you one thing today — do not betray the people and their faith in Europe" Zelenskyy has added.

Statements from EU leaders

EU's Foreign Affairs Chief

Ahead of negotiations in Brussels, EU's Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell stated that supporting Ukraine in its confrontation against Russian aggression is an existential matter for the European Union.

President of the European Parliament

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, emphasized the necessity of EU enlargement for strengthening the continent, calling it an investment in peace and security.

During a briefing, she also responded to whether the bloc members understand how to persuade Orban to make a positive decision.

"I’m realistic but I’m not pessimistic, so let’s wait and see. There are many people who are good at persuading inside that room," Metsola stated, expressing hope that this unity will persist.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands

In turn, the Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, stated that EU member states at the summit should say "yes" to at least one decision regarding Ukraine - either approving the €50 billion aid package or commencing negotiations for EU accession.

"And we have to say yes to at least one of those two and, ideally, both of those two, because Ukraine is in peril. Ukraine will not stand without support and ongoing support of both the European Union and the United States, the two towers of freedom and democracy in the world, and if Ukraine doesn’t have support from the EU and the US, well, then Putin will win," Varadkar emphasized.

Prime Minister of Finland

Prime Minister of Finland, Petteri Orpo, believes that leaders must approve 'strong decisions" regarding Ukraine: endorsing military and financial aid, as well as commencing negotiations for EU accession.

Chancellor of Germany

Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, stated that Ukraine had made progress in fulfilling the requirements set by the EU for commencing accession negotiations.

"It is important to us that we now set the course that will advance the accession process here in Europe, and that this is also supported by the countries," Scholz said.

Response from Ukraine in case of no decision on starting negotiations

Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov stated that Ukraine would be disappointed if the start of EU accession negotiations were delayed. However, he emphasized that it wouldn't be the end of the world.

In an interview with la Repubblica regarding Ukraine's reaction if Hungary blocks the start of membership negotiations, Danilov said:

"We would be disappointed. But it won't be the end of the world. I'm interested in something else. What is the European Union? If it's a community of values, we unquestionably meet all the criteria of freedom. We are a democratic country. A community that upholds freedom of speech and human rights."