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Orban: 'EU must not start membership talks with Ukraine'

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk November 10, 2023 1:19 PM 2 min read
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on the sidelines of the Third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Oct. 17, 2023. (Grigory Sysoyev / Pool / AFP)
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The European Union "must not start membership talks with Ukraine," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said to state radio on Nov. 10, as cited by Reuters.

Hungary has a "clear stance" on the issue, he said, and it is not connected to other issues that Hungary has with the EU.

"I would like to make it very clear that the Hungarian rejection of the start of talks with Ukraine over EU membership is not subject to a business deal ...It cannot be linked to the issue of funds that Hungary is entitled to get."

Orban claimed that the EU owes Hungary billions of euros in EU funds that have been suspended since 2022 over concerns about the deteriorating rule of law in the country and rising corruption.

Orban's comments came two days after Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that Ukraine is not ready for accession to the bloc.

Other Hungarian officials have issued similar statements, providing various reasons why they would oppose Ukraine joining.

The issue of protections for Ukraine's Hungarian minority, especially concerning language rights, has often been mentioned.

A Ukrainian language law instituted in 2017 requires at least 70% of education above fifth grade to be conducted in Ukrainian. In response to complaints, Ukrainian officials have said there is no intention to crack down on linguistic minorities but rather to ensure that every Ukrainian citizen has sufficient knowledge of Ukraine's official language.

President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an amendment to the national minorities law on Nov. 3, expanding the protections for minority languages.

The issue of minority language rights is highly sensitive in Ukraine, as Russian dictator Vladimir Putin regularly justified the full-scale invasion as being necessary to protect Russian speakers in the country.

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Hungary has repeatedly obstructed EU funds for Kyiv while opposing sanctions against Russia. Orban, who maintains close ties with the Kremlin, has refused to provide military aid to Ukraine and claimed that Kyiv's counteroffensive was destined to fail.

Both Orban and Szijjarto have met with high-ranking Russian officials, including Putin, since Feb. 24, 2022. Szijjarto has also traveled to Russia five times since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

A majority of Hungarians have expressed their disapproval of Orban's meeting with Putin at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Oct. 17.

Exclusive: New insights point to Hungary’s collaboration with Moscow on transfer of Ukrainian POWs
In early June, a bizarre and mysterious joint operation was carried out between two of Ukraine’s neighbors, one to the east and one to the west. Eleven Ukrainian soldiers, after having been held in Russian captivity for an unknown amount of time, were moved from Russia to Hungary. Although

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