E.U. Leaders Agree to Open Membership Negotiations With Ukraine

Matina Stevis-Gridneff

By Matina Stevis-Gridneff

Reporting from Brussels

Dec. 14, 2023Updated 1:42 p.m. ET

After a bruising trip to Washington, Ukraine welcomed an important breakthrough in securing support from its allies as the war drags on.

European Union leaders agreed on Thursday to officially open accession negotiations for Ukraine to join the bloc, an important breakthrough for Kyiv as it tries to bolster support from its allies.

The news was released by Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, who made the announcement on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The move comes at a crucial time for Mr. Zelensky, who is just back from a bruising visit to the United States, where he was unable to secure agreement for desperately needed money for his war effort that is threatened by political divisions in Congress. 

“This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires and strengthens,” Mr. Zelensky said on X in response to the news.

At the start of the E.U. meeting on Thursday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary had said he planned to veto the official opening of Ukraine’s accession talks, claiming the country was not ready and that Ukraine’s joining the E.U. would be bad for the bloc and for Hungary. But, in the end, Mr. Orban appears to have abstained from the decision to let the talks begin. 

Negotiations to join the bloc normally take a decade or longer and come with deep reforms to align the candidate country with E.U. rules and standards. 

The next hurdle for Ukraine in the two-day E.U. summit is to secure 50 billion euros, about $52 billion, in proposed aid for the country. Mr. Orban, who has in the past delayed some E.U. sanctions against Russia and is seen as President Vladimir V. Putin’s closest ally in the bloc, said that the proposed aid for Ukraine should come only after Europe-wide elections planned for the summer.

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