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Politico: Zelensky not invited to EU summit to avoid antagonizing Orban

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 14, 2023 5:47 PM 2 min read
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban during the inauguration of Argentina's new president Javier Milei at the Congress in Buenos Aires on Dec. 10, 2023. (Alejandro Pagni / AFP via Getty Images)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky has not been invited to the EU Council Summit in Brussels due to fears that his presence "could antagonize" Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Politico reported on Dec. 14, citing unnamed EU diplomats.

Orban openly opposes the launch of Ukraine's EU accession negotiations, claiming that Ukraine is "light years" away from joining the block. The European Commission announced on Nov. 8 that Ukraine had made progress in its reforms and was ready for talks to begin.

Member states will vote on whether to officially begin negotiations during the Dec. 14-15 summit. Ukrainian and Western leaders and officials are seeking to sway Budapest away from blocking the start of Ukraine's membership talks.

Zelensky was in Oslo on Dec. 13, a few hours away by plane, and was "keen" to come to Brussels, Politico's sources said. EU leaders were also reportedly "willing to invite him."

The president did not receive an invitation since "several ambassadors expressed reservations," fearing that his presence would cause Orban "to dig his heels in even further," Politico said.

The Hungarian prime minister said on Dec. 14 that there is "no reason to negotiate the (EU) membership of Ukraine now," signaling no change in his position.

European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and French President Emmanuel Macron were set to meet with Orban ahead of the summit in what appeared to be a last-ditch attempt to persuade Orban to change course.

EU unblocks 10 billion euros for Hungary, but Orban’s support for Ukraine still unclear
The EU Commission said that Hungary had fulfilled a specific set of judiciary reforms necessary to access the 10 billion euros in funding.
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