EU countries on Friday formally approved launching accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova next week, a landmark event for the two countries at the start of their long path towards joining the bloc.

European Union ministers will start negotiations first with Ukraine and then with Moldova in Luxembourg on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. 

Ukraine -- followed by its neighbour Moldova -- lodged its application to join the 27-nation EU in the wake of Russia's 2022 invasion.

Starting the negotiations will still only put the two ex-Soviet states at the beginning of what is likely to be a years-long process of reforms before they can finally become members. 

EU leaders took the key step in December of agreeing to open talks on war-torn Ukraine -- and Moldova -- joining the club. 

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But to actually begin the negotiations the bloc's members still had to sign off on a formal framework for the process. 

The EU's executive told member states this month that Ukraine and Moldova had met all the criteria needed to launch the talks. 

Pressure has grown to move Ukraine onto the next step in its quest for membership, in the face of fears that Hungary could stall progress when it takes over the EU's rotating presidency in July.

Hungary -- the friendliest country to Russia in the EU -- has said it does not intend to hold any further rounds of talks with Ukraine during its six months at the helm. 

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Hungary's Finance Minister presented his counterparts with Budapest's priorities during its time at the helm but maintaining the 27-nation bloc's support for Ukraine was noticeably not listed.

Russia's war in Ukraine has reinvigorated a push in the EU to take on new members, after years in which countries particularly in the Western Balkans made little progress on their hope to join. 

The EU in December 2023 also granted candidate status to another of Russia's former Soviet neighbours, Georgia.

It has also approved accession negotiations with Bosnia and has opened such talks with Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia.

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