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Zelensky 'still waiting for answer' from Orban on why Ukraine should not join EU

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk December 13, 2023 5:00 PM 2 min read
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with Norway's Prime Minister in Oslo on Dec. 13, 2023. (Javad Parsa / NTB / AFP via Getty Images)
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban did not give President Volodymyr Zelensky an answer when asked why Budapest wants to block Ukraine's entry into the EU, Zelensky said at the Nordic-Ukraine Summit in Oslo on Dec. 13.

Zelensky and Orban were seen talking on the sidelines of the inauguration of Argentina's President Javier Milei on Dec. 10, which Zelensky previously described as a "frank" conversation.

"I asked him to tell me one reason, not three, five, 10, tell me one reason" as to why talks should not begin, Zelensky said at the press conference in Oslo. "I'm still waiting for (an) answer."

Orban is openly opposed to 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 was ready for talks to begin.

"The European Commission has not completed the preparatory work that could guarantee that Ukraine will continue accession negotiations in a mutually beneficial way," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed on Dec. 11.

"The European Commission has practically no idea about the impact of Ukraine's membership in the EU would have on the whole community," Szijjarto claimed.

Budapest has previously said that Kyiv's alleged "discrimination" against the Hungarian community in Ukraine is one of the obstacles on Kyiv's path toward the EU.

Hungarians in Ukraine are thought to number around 80,000, most of whom live in the western oblast of Zakarpattia. Representatives of the group sent a letter to Orban on Dec. 11, asking him not to block the launch of Ukraine's EU accession talks.

"The new draft law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament significantly reflects the interests of national minorities and enjoys our full support," the representatives said, countering Budapest's claims of discrimination.

The letter referred to changes made to Ukraine's 2017 language law, which were based on recommendations of the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe.

The European Commission said on Nov. 8 that Ukraine's language laws should be further strengthened to protect minority rights in education and media, but significant progress has been made in the sphere of minority protection in Ukraine so far.

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Hungary has repeatedly obstructed EU funds for Kyiv while opposing sanctions against Russia, straining relations between Budapest and Kyiv.

Orban responds to Hungarians in Ukraine, offers substitute to EU membership
In his letter, Orban vowed that Hungary “will do everything in its power to protect the rights of the Hungarian community in Ukraine,” the Hungarian news portal hvg.hu reported.

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