The leaders of the European Union member states sent mixed signals to Ukraine during the ongoing EU summit. The states approved the start of accession negotiations with Ukraine, at the end of which the defending country should become another member of the bloc. On the other hand, they did not negotiate a revision of the EU budget related to further aid to war-torn Ukraine.
The outcomes of the summit raised questions about the unity of the member states. The opening of accession negotiations with Kyiv was supported by 26 of the 27 member states. The decision was taken unanimously, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán left the hall just before the vote. For several months now, Hungary has been in opposition to most of the EU negotiations in connection with Ukraine.
Hungarians veto most proposals. In this case, however, Orbán backed down and had the decision approved in his absence. According to Minister for European Affairs Martin Dvořák (STAN), with whom Czech Radio Plus spoke, it is a possible deal from Orbán’s side. Hungary has European funds frozen due to the poor state of its justice system. The minister believes that the Hungarian prime minister tried to prepare the ground for negotiations on the possible release of part of the money with this step.
In the interview, the minister said that Orbán’s actions set an undesirable precedent. Because of this, according to him, it is appropriate to conduct a debate on changes to the decision-making process in the EU and the departure from the principle of unanimity, according to which some decisions must be taken unanimously, but states can use their right of veto. This was used by Hungary, for example, during the negotiations on further aid to Ukraine, which was the only one to refuse.
In connection with this, there has been a debate for several months about changing the voting model. According to Dvořák, it is important to “find the right model, which preserves the rights and ability of small countries to participate in decision-making”. “We saw a stormy, almost hysterical reaction to the President’s statement in Bruges that we should at least start a debate about it,” said Dvořák.
When asked whether there is a debate about the future of the principle of unanimity in the government as well, the minister answered in the negative. According to him, there is still no political courage for such a step due to the reaction after the president’s statement. However, he himself would support the abolition of unanimity. “Orbán shows that it is urgent,” he added.