Brussels, Dec 17 (IANS) European Union (EU) leaders grappled with divisions on critical issues during a two-day European Council meeting, failing to reach a unanimous agreement on financial aid to Ukraine and the call for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
The meeting, which started on Thursday, had a primary focus on EU enlargement, a 50-billion-euro ($54 billion) funding package to aid Ukraine and the Gaza conflict, Xinhua news agency reported.
The most noteworthy outcome was the opening of membership accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. The EU also granted Georgia the candidate country status, and agreed to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is achieved.
However, the EU faced internal discord as the agreement to open Ukraine’s accession talks was not unanimous. The EU bypassed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s objections by getting him to leave the room.
Orban announced on the social media platform X that Hungary did not wish to participate in the “bad decision” and stayed away from the decision.
“Ukraine is not ready for EU membership,” said Orban, adding that the country will have many opportunities to correct the decision.
Jasmin Mujanovic, a political scientist, said on X that Brussels’s move was “purely symbolic” and “Ukraine and Moldova will be lucky if they get in by 2055.”
Russia said the EU’s move was absolutely a politicized decision. “Negotiations to join the EU can last for years or decades. The EU has always had strict criteria for accession, and it is obvious that at the moment neither Ukraine nor Moldova meets these criteria,” said Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Orban also vetoed a proposed 50-billion-euro allocation from the EU budget to Ukraine. He suggested that the EU will come back to the issue next year in the European Council meeting after proper preparation.
Orban told state radio that the country should not send any more money to finance the conflict.
Regarding the Middle East situation, the EU members have long been divided over the Israel-Palestine issue. Austria and Germany are among Israel’s supporters, as their leaders had visited Israel to show solidarity, while Spain and Ireland often showed empathy for the Palestinian people.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Ireland insisted on a Gaza ceasefire, highlighting the EU’s lack of a unified position on the Israel-Palestine conflict has repercussions for its global reputation.
“We’ve lost credibility with the Global South, which actually is most of the world, because what it perceived to be double standards,” Varadkar said, “and there’s truth in that, quite frankly.”
“The killing of innocent civilians really needs to stop,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. He added that the EU must unite if it wants to play a serious role in the conflict.
“I think we have to because we will be wearing the consequences if things go further in a bad direction,” he said.