EU Aims to Start Ukraine Membership Talks by End of June

(Bloomberg) -- The European Union is aiming to start negotiations as early as June 25 with Ukraine on becoming a member of the bloc to help boost Kyiv’s morale, but has yet to fully overcome objections from Hungary.

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Almost all 27 member states were supportive of launching the negotiations around the time of the General Affairs Council meeting taking place in Luxembourg on June 25, according to people familiar with the matter.

So far, however, issues raised by the Hungarian government have complicated an agreement on the framework that would allow the bloc to start the talks.

Back in March, the European Commission proposed a negotiating framework to establish guidelines and principles for accession negotiations, following the EU leaders decision to open membership talks with Ukraine in December.

Read more: EU Aims to Move Forward With Ukraine Accession Talks Next Week

Belgium, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency through the end of June, was pushing for starting the negotiations during its term. Hungary, which takes over on July 1, has been dragging its heels on the accession process with Kyiv and blocking key financial and military support for the Ukrainian government.

EU ambassadors discussed Wednesday the negotiating frameworks for the accession process of Ukraine and Moldova proposed by the European Commission.

Hungary continued to block a decision, citing concerns including the protection of Hungarian minorities in Ukraine, a longstanding demand that Brussels and Kyiv insist has been addressed, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

Budpaest also demanded other significant changes to the accession framework, including some related to trade, corruption and agriculture, an EU diplomat said.

As a result, a decision is unlikely on Wednesday and could come when EU leaders gather for an informal dinner on June 17 following the European elections.

Even with a green light from EU member states, the membership negotiations will take years, as the path to membership is lengthy and complicated. Croatia was the last country to join the bloc and its application lasted 10 years before it was formally accepted in 2013.

What Ukraine’s EU Candidacy Means, and What’s Ahead: QuickTake

(Updates with details of meeting in third to last paragraph. An earlier version corrected the location of the General Affairs Council meeting)

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