Ukraine’s parliament approves bills seen as key for EU talks

(Reuters) -The Ukrainian parliament on Friday approved four bills necessary to start European Union accession talks, including one on national minorities’ rights, a critical demand from Hungary which opposes Ukraine’s EU bid.

Parliament’s website confirmed that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed all the bills into law. He described them as a key step in Ukraine’s application to join the 27-member EU.

An EU summit next week is to consider whether to start negotiations on membership with Ukraine, and neighbouring ex-Soviet Moldova, which Kyiv sees as vital to anchoring itself in Western institutions.

EU leaders must unanimously approve the move and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he opposes starting talks as recommended by the EU Commission.

“We expect that Ukraine’s efforts will be duly appreciated by leaders of the European Union and the corresponding European promises to Ukraine will be fulfilled,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

Ukraine, he said, had “done everything expected of us” in taking on EU recommendations.

Zelenskiy said the minority rights law had considered recommendations from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, which advises on legal and institutional standards.

Budapest has clashed with Kyiv over what it says are curbs on the rights of ethnic Hungarians in western Ukraine, in particular regarding education.

The other bills adopted concern staff increases in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, additional power for the National Agency on Corruption Prevention on assets checks, and provisions on public declaration of assets.

A bill on lobbying — also required for the EU talks — has been approved by the government and is to be considered by parliament.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa and Ron Popeski; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O’Brien)