Home News Hungary’s Orbán blocks EU aid for Ukraine after membership talks agreed

Hungary’s Orbán blocks EU aid for Ukraine after membership talks agreed

Council President Charles Michel receives Hungarian PM Viktor Orban for talks in preparation of the EU summit, 13 December 2023. [Council newsroom]

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Friday (15 December) blocked €50 billion in EU financial aid for Ukraine, throwing into doubt Europe’s ongoing support after the bloc’s leaders side-stepped his opposition to agree to open accession talks with Kyiv.

EU leaders, locked in negotiations over the aid package until early Friday morning, broke up talks after a day of wrangling as Orbán refused to greenlight funding to help prop up Ukraine’s government over the next four years.

Attempts seeking to convince Orbán to agree to the financial package, including a last-ditch effort by leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands – were unsuccessful.

They are now expected to return to the decision in early 2024 at an extraordinary leaders’ meeting in January, European Council President Charles Michel told reporters at the end of the summit’s first day.

The latest compromise budget proposal was “firmly supported” by EU26 leaders, Michel said, which was confirmed by EU officials that said all member states minus Hungary were satisfied with the reviewed document.

“We still have some time, Ukraine is not out of money in the next few weeks,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters on leaving the talks.

“I am fairly confident we can get a deal early next year, we are thinking of late January,” he added.

But the blockage from Budapest dealt a considerable blow to Kyiv and its backers only hours after they had celebrated the bloc taking the symbolic step of agreeing to open membership talks.

Kyiv is urgently trying to change the narrative that backing from its Western allies is waning as doubts swirl over financial and military support from the United States.

Orbán trade-off?

Initially, Orbán opposed both decisions, but after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s suggestion, he agreed to step out of the negotiating room to allow the other EU leaders to make a consensus decision on accession without him.

EU leaders and diplomats denied giving him any trade-offs for leaving the room at the key moment so the decision could be taken at EU26.

But two concessions in one – with EU26 potentially finding a solution without Hungary once more on financial aid – would not have even been workable, several EU diplomats said.

After the break-up of talks, Orbán took to social media to proclaim victory.

“Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine,” Orbán wrote, saying he vetoed injecting new money into the EU’s seven-year budget, which has dried up largely because of the Covid pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Critics have accused the Hungarian leader of holding Kyiv’s survival hostage to force Brussels to release billions of EU funds frozen over a rule of law dispute.

In what some saw as a last-minute concession, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, agreed on Wednesday to unblock €10 billion of that cash.

Another €21 billion still remains out of Orbán’s grasp, but he denied that Hungary was linking the cash and its Ukraine stance. “That’s not our style,” he said.

Beyond Orbán, other EU leaders stressed the need for unity and to send a strong signal of support for Ukraine, which has already seen Washington’s support threatened by manoeuvres in the US Congress to agree to a $60 billion aid package proposed by the White House.

The uncertainty has raised fears of weakening Western resolve to sustain the country as it battles against Russia.

EU leaders said the bloc had agreed to a 12th round of sanctions on Moscow, targeting Russia’s lucrative diamond exports and aiming to tighten an oil price cap.

[Edited by Georgi Gotev/Alice Taylor]


Source: euractiv.com


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