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Orban sizes up chances of Ukraine joining EU

The distance is as great as from Mako to Jerusalem, the premier said, using a Hungarian expression for ‘great distance’

Hungary believes that Ukraine is very far from becoming a member of the EU and Budapest will not change its stance on accession talks in exchange for a hypothetical unfreezing of funding by Brussels, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Radio Kossuth on Friday.

“Ukraine is absolutely not ready to negotiate over its bid for EU membership. Ukraine is as far from EU membership as Mako is from Jerusalem,” he said, using a popular Hungarian idiom.

The expression is said to be a play of words on the resemblance of the names of the southeastern Hungarian town and the port of Akko that many European pilgrims transitioned on their way to the Holy Land. The latter settlement is now the Israeli city of Acre.

On Wednesday, the European Commission recommended that the EU start formal membership talks with Kiev. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen claimed that the Ukrainian government had satisfied some 90% of Brussels’ requirements for it to move to the next phase.

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EU state explains objection to Ukrainian membership

Hungary has been a vocal critic of the EU’s policy on Ukraine, including its support for arming the country against Russia and the decision to decouple European economies from Russian supplies and market. It has failed to end bloodshed in Ukraine and has hurt member states of the EU more than it has hurt Moscow, Budapest argues.

Critics of the Orban government claim that his position is a way to put pressure on Brussels in a row over Hungarian domestic policies. The EU leadership has accused Budapest of sliding back in terms of democracy and rule of law under the current prime minister. 

A Reuters report last week said that Brussels was considering an offer to unfreeze funds worth €13 billion ($13.6 billion) that are meant for Hungary to secure its backing for delivering aid to Ukraine and for the membership talks.

“I strongly reject any connection. We will neither initiate [such a deal] nor accept it from Brussels,” Orban said of the hypothetical agreement.

READ MORE: EU won’t keep promises to Ukraine – Kremlin

The prime minister blasted the incumbent EU leadership, saying “it fulfills the mandate of globalist elites” rather than that of the people of member states. The conflict in Ukraine is but one example of how Brussels’ policies go against the interests of nations that make up the bloc, Orban added.


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