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Hungary’s Orban says Ukraine is ‘light years away’ from joining the EU

HUNGARY’S Prime Minister said on Saturday that Ukraine is “light years away” from joining the European Union, further signalling that his government is likely to present a roadblock to Kiev’s ambitions to join the bloc.

Speaking at a biannual congress of his nationalist Fidesz party, Viktor Orban said he and his government would “resist” talks scheduled for mid-December on whether to formally invite Ukraine to start membership negotiations.

Admitting a new country requires unanimous approval from all existing member countries, giving Mr Orban a powerful veto.

At the party congress in Budapest on Saturday, he was re-elected as the president of Fidesz for the 11th consecutive time since 2003. 

Mr Orban said afterwards that standing in the way of Ukraine joining the EU would be one of his government’s top priorities in the coming months.

“Our task will be to correct the mistaken promise to start negotiations with Ukraine, since Ukraine is now light years away from the European Union,” Mr Orban said.

The EU’s executive commission earlier this month recommended beginning accession talks with Ukraine, saying the government in Kiev “has shown a remarkable level of institutional strength, determination and ability to function.”

But Mr Orban, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s only EU allies, has argued that negotiations should not begin with a country that is at war, and that Ukraine’s membership would reorient the 27-member EU’s system of distributing funds to member countries.

Mr Orban has criticised Ukraine over what he says is the violation of the rights of ethnic Hungarians in western Ukraine to study in their own language. 

In September, Mr Orban told the Hungarian parliament that his government would “not support Ukraine on any international issue” until the language rights of the minority are restored.

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