The EU must open accession negotiations with Ukraine as Kyiv has fulfilled all necessary steps, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Thursday.
“We must keep showing unity, leadership and action. We have a window of opportunity, and we leave it open or, if we close it, then we would have lost a historic opportunity,” she said.
Metsola added: “This is crucial for both Ukraine and Moldova. Both countries have delivered and they have done so under the most difficult circumstances. The next step now is to open the accession negotiations.
“Such a decision will be based on merit and respect for our criteria. Many of us have gone through that accession process, and we know how important steps like this are and the signal that they to the people on the ground and to those countries, especially, in this case, who are fighting a war.”
Elsewhere, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban threatened Thursday to veto an EU plan to boost aid and open membership talks for Ukraine, as President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Europe's leaders not to hand Russia a political victory.
The EU's 27 leaders were focused at a crunch summit in Brussels on granting Kyiv a four-year 50-billion-euro ($55-billion) funding package and an agreement to launch formal EU talks for Ukraine on joining the bloc, AFP reports.
But Orban, an authoritarian nationalist already embroiled in a row with Brussels over democratic standards in his own country, arrived apparently determined to make good on his threat to derail proceedings by using his veto to block both measures.
"There is no reason to discuss anything because preconditions were not met," Orban said.
"We're not going to move away from this."
The European Commission has advised the 27 leaders that Ukraine is making good progress towards enacting the necessary judicial reforms to meet EU standards.
Most EU leaders want this week's summit to approve the start of formal membership talks, in a sign of solidarity with Ukraine 22 months after Russia launched an all-out invasion.
They also want to approve the financial aid package for Kyiv. But any decisions must be unanimous and Orban said that firstly, any aid would have to enacted outside the EU budget and that secondly he would not allow membership talks to begin.
He said Ukraine might meet more of the reform criteria needed to hit EU standards by March, but suggested that a decision on funding could wait until after June's European elections. Zelensky, in an impassioned plea via videolink, told the leaders "now is not the time for half-measures or hesitation".
He said failure to open membership talks with Ukraine would be used by Russian President Vladimir Putin "against you personally, and against all of Europe.
"Don't give him this first – and only – victory of the year," the Ukrainian leader urged.
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