Ukraine warns of ‘devastating consequences’

Abu Sufian

Ukraine’s foreign minister warned European Union leaders Monday that if they fail to agree to open membership talks with Kyiv at their summit this week it will have “devastating consequences”.

“I cannot imagine,” Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in Brussels “I don’t even want to talk about the devastating consequences that will occur shall the Council fail to make this decision.”

Kuleba was in Brussels to attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers ahead of Thursday’s summit of European leaders, which is due to decide whether to open formal membership talks with Ukraine and other candidate countries.

Ukraine’s hopes for formal negotiations have broad support in Europe, keen to demonstrate solidarity with Kyiv amid the carnage unleashed by Russia’s invasion, but Hungary has threatened to veto any decision this week.

“I hope that European unity will not be broken, because this isn’t the moment to weaken our support to Ukraine,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

The EU’s 27 leaders will meet on Thursday but Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban — Russia’s closest friend in the bloc — is threatening to block billions in aid and delay EU membership talks for Kyiv.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen called Hungary’s position “very, very deplorable”.

“It is crucial that we keep on aiding Ukraine for as long as it’s needed, and it’s not only for the cause of Ukraine, but also for our own cause,” she said.

European diplomats believe that Orban is stalling support for Ukraine to pressure Brussels to release billions of euros of EU support to Budapest frozen over a rule-of-law dispute.

“This shouldn’t be a game of bargaining, but of course, in this situation, we need to find all channels possible which can aid in finding a conclusion,” Valtonen said.

Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karins said Hungary’s position was a “challenge”.

“In Europe, we’ve faced many challenges, internal challenges in the past, and each time we’ve risen to the occasion and we’ve overcome them,” he said.

At the summit this week the EU is eyeing agreements on giving Ukraine 50 billion euros ($54 billion) more in financial aid, topping up a weapons fund for Kyiv by five billion euros and opening talks to join the bloc next year.

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