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France pours cold water on Ukraine’s EU dream

Ukraine will have to meet the EU’s economic and political standards before being allowed to join the bloc, French Europe Minister Laurence Boone told lawmakers in Paris on Wednesday.

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The minister was briefing French MPs on the decision by EU leaders to greenlight formal accession talks with Kiev, reached at a meeting in Brussels last week. Hungary objected to the step, insisting Ukraine is not ready for membership, but declined to veto the move. Moldova was also approved for membership talks at the same meeting.

Boone, who shared excerpts from her report on social media on Thursday, told lawmakers that in order to qualify for EU membership, candidate states must improve in areas such as media freedom, the rule of law, and fighting corruption.

“We do not want these places to be sources of instability at the borders of the European Union,” she stressed.

The accession process will be long and subject to veto by any EU member at any stage, the minister noted. Boone added that candidates may face demands for changes in areas such as economic and agricultural policy. The goal is to have “convergence in economic and social matters” so that EU members and newcomers can have a “level playing field,” Boone stated.

Competition from Ukrainian farmers has been a major issue for Eastern European nations, some of which have imposed unilateral import bans on Ukrainian products to protect domestic markets. Polish Deputy Agriculture Minister Michal Kolodziejczak warned last week that Ukraine could “destabilize food security in any EU country” if given free market access.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban estimated in an interview on Wednesday that admitting Ukraine would cost the EU between €150 billion and €190 billion ($164 billion-$208 billion). This would mean “all the aid that was given to the countries of Central Europe, including Hungary, would be transferred to [Kiev],” he warned.

READ MORE: Ukraine conflict could ruin EU – Borrell

The Hungarian leader walked out on the meeting in Brussels where the agreement to approve Ukrainian membership talks was made, declaring that Budapest wants nothing to do with the decision.

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