Zelenskiy implores leaders not to abandon Ukraine’s EU accession

Ukrainian leader warns against delaying EU membership, giving satisfaction to Putin

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged European leaders not to hesitate on EU membership for Ukraine, emphasizing that it would please Vladimir Putin. 26 EU member states are convening to secure an additional €50bn (£43bn) for Ukraine and discuss the initiation of accession talks with the war-torn country. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to veto both proposals.

Zelenskiy appealed to the leaders in Brussels through a video link, saying, “I ask you one thing today: do not betray the people and their faith in Europe. It’s crucial that Europe doesn’t waiver in its decision-making today. Nobody wants Europe to be viewed as untrustworthy or incapable of taking necessary actions.”

Orbán has argued that Ukraine is not prepared for EU membership negotiations, contrary to the recommendation of the European Commission and the wishes of fellow leaders who support starting the talks this weekend.

The division among European leaders comes at a critical time for Zelenskiy, who is struggling to convince US Republicans to support a $61bn (£47.9bn) military aid package for Ukraine. Opponents are insisting on White House concessions on US border security as a condition for a deal.

Zelenskiy stated that the world will remember the leaders who fail to choose Ukraine, saying, “Today is the day when determination will either be in Brussels or Moscow. People in Europe won’t understand if Putin’s satisfied smile becomes the reward for a meeting in Brussels. Today is a special day—one that will be recorded in our history, capturing every word, step, action, and inaction. Who fought for what.”

EU leaders initially expected smooth proceedings regarding EU membership discussions for Ukraine and Moldova, following the European Commission’s formal recommendation in November that both countries have implemented sufficient reforms to begin negotiations next year. However, soon after the recommendation, Orbán, who prides himself on his relationship with Putin, threatened to exercise Hungary’s veto power, casting doubt on his loyalty to the European project. He has consistently stood firm, even threatening to block the €50bn fund for Kyiv from the EU’s budget.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have intensified efforts to persuade Orbán that he is on the wrong path at this crucial juncture. However, during a breakfast meeting on Thursday, it appeared they had not persuaded him to change his stance.

If EU leaders approve the initiation of membership talks and the four-year financial package, it could be seen as a geopolitical victory for Kyiv. On the other hand, failure to reach an agreement would likely be portrayed by Moscow as a sign of weakening Western support for Ukraine.

In a press conference and phone-in on Thursday, Putin remarked that it appeared foreign aid was running out for Ukraine.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar commented on the EU summit, stating, “The most important decision we need to make here today and this weekend is to ensure that long-term financial support for Ukraine will come from the European Union. If Ukraine lacks support from the EU and the US, Putin will emerge as the winner.” Varadkar described the summit as one of the most significant he had attended.

Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, expressed that it is the EU’s “moral responsibility” to take the “next political step” and initiate membership talks with Ukraine.

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