János Bóka, the minister for EU affairs, said the European Union’s Ukraine policy needs to be shaped through “a period of considering options and holding a strategic debate”.
Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of a meeting of EU affairs ministers, Bóka said that “without a strategic debate, we are not in a position to make decisions on further steps in Ukraine’s accession or the review of the multiannual financial framework.” He said the debate would need to show the results the EU’s strategy of supporting Ukraine had yielded so far, including the resources provided, how those resources had been used and results achieved, and strategies for overcoming difficulties. The sustainability of the EU’s strategy should also be up for debate, he said. The EU had built its course of action on the assumption that Ukraine would win the war and prompt a political reshuffle in Moscow, he said. Should that presumption become untenable, the EU should outline an alternative strategy with the aim of creating a functional security system in Europe, he said. At the same time, the country report of the European Commission has also said that Ukraine hadn’t fulfilled all requirements to acquire EU membership candidate status, let alone start accession talks, he said. The European Council has said earlier that the accession process may advance only if those requirements had been fully met, he added. Bóka welcomed the EC decision to offer candidate status to Georgia and said the Georgian government had done much to fulfil all requirements. The EU’s enlargement is now taking place in the Western Balkans and in the East, Bóka said, calling for speeding up the former and for “careful consideration on the eastern front”.
After the meeting, Bóka said the EU should start assessing “how successful its strategy concerning Ukraine has been”. He told the Hungarian press that the assessment should cover “how the aid provided so far has been used”, if it was sustainable and if there were alternatives. He said the results of such an assessment would put the bloc in a position to make decisions concerning Ukraine’s EU integration as well as further aid to that country.
Concerning EU enlargement, Bóka said the Hungarian government wanted to see “an appropriate political balance between the enlargement processes of the Western Balkans and of countries in the East”. The Western Balkans region is a priority for Hungary, the minister said. He added that integrating the Western Balkans would “not involve fundamental institutional or budgetary changes, therefore it is not necessary to tie Western Balkans integration to institutional reforms”. Concerning preparations for an upcoming European Council meeting with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its agenda, Bóka said the council “must not adopt a closing statement failing to stipulate that hostages held by the [Hamas] terrorist organisation must be released immediately and unconditionally.” “That should also be a prerequisite for the European Union to join any international declaration or initiative,” he added. Bóka said the council meeting’s agenda would also include a review of the EU’s budget. Hungary, he said, would want to see a mechanism outside the budget framework rather than one included in it to provide aid to Ukraine. “That would facilitate flexibility for member states, international financial institutions and other parties in contributing to aid for Ukraine,” the minister added.