BRUSSELS, June 15 — Ambassadors from the EU’s 27 member states yesterday “agreed in principle” on beginning accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova on June 25, the Belgian presidency of the EU’s Council said.

“Ambassadors agreed in principle on the negotiating frameworks for the accession negotiations of Ukraine and Moldova. The Belgian presidency will call the first intergovernmental conferences on 25 June,” it said.

EU ministers are due to formally approve the decision during a meeting on June 21. In the Netherlands, parliament must also give its consent.

Ukraine and fellow ex-Soviet neighbour Moldova applied to join the EU shortly after Russia launched its all-out invasion in February 2022.

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A raft of EU countries have been pressing the bloc to formally start the talks on June 25 after leaders took the landmark decision to open negotiations in December.

But opposition from Hungary, the friendliest country to Russia in the EU, threatens to derail the move, which requires the unanimous support of member states.

Hungary takes over the rotating presidency of the legislative Council of the European Union in July and there are fears it could stall progress.

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Further opposition could come from a new right-wing government in The Netherlands.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, a separate political body, welcomed the agreement in a message on social media platform X.

“We keep our promises and we will support you along the way to membership,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, the European Commission said Ukraine had met outstanding requirements including efforts to curb the power of oligarchs and better ensure the rights of ethnic minorities.

Starting the negotiations would put Ukraine at the start of what is likely to be a years-long process of reforms before it can finally become a member.

In Moldova, authorities have repeatedly accused the Kremlin of seeking to destabilise the country in a bid to knock it off its pro-Western course.

It signed a security and defence pact with the EU last month.

The EU in December 2023 also granted candidate status to another of Russia’s former Soviet neighbours, Georgia.

It has also approved accession negotiations with Bosnia and has opened such talks with Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia. — AFP