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Michel to cut China trip short as Orbán issues fresh threat over Ukraine’s EU bid

Michel to cut China trip short as Orbán issues fresh threat over Ukraine’s EU bid

by host

European Council President Charles Michel will cut his trip to Beijing short, according to an EU official, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán threatens to derail an end-of-year EU leaders’ summit.

Michel, who is traveling to China for the first in-person EU-China summit since 2019, “will return to Brussels to continue his discussions with leaders on a way forward,” the official told POLITICO’s Brussels Playbook.

In a letter dated December 4 and obtained by Playbook, Orbán urged Michel to take accession negotiations with Ukraine off the agenda at the upcoming European Council summit. “I respectfully urge you not to invite the European Council to decide on these matters in December as the obvious lack of consensus would inevitably lead to failure,” Orbán wrote.

The Hungarian leader has adamantly opposed opening accession negotiations with Kyiv, after the European Commission approved the start of membership talks in November, and has threatened to veto a planned €50 billion in aid for Ukraine.

Michel will now return early from the Chinese capital after a first day of meetings Thursday — partly because he does not have a secure phone line in Beijing to speak to EU leaders without China listening in, the official said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has also invited Orbán to meet him in Paris at the end of this week to seek to strike a compromise, another official told POLITICO.

Michel himself met Orbán in Budapest last week in a bid to smooth over tensions ahead of the EU leaders’ summit. Afterward, Michel stressed the importance of “EU unity,” which he said “requires constant effort and it’s our main strength.”

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