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Hungary’s Orbán blocks €50 billion EU long-term financial support to Ukraine

Brussels, December 15, 2023, The Europe Today: The Hungarian prime minister opposed Brussels’ proposal to provide €50 billion from EU coffers to Ukraine through 2027, a decision that requires the unanimous blessing of all EU leaders.

The €50-billion ‘Ukraine Facility’ – made up of €33 billion in low-interest loans and €17 billion in non-repayable grants – is pegged onto a broader €100-billion review of the EU’s long-term budget, known as the Multièannual Financial Framework (MFF). A group of northern countries fiercely opposed the hefty size of the top-up and bargained for a scaled-down review.

The President of the European Council Charles Michel told reporters early on Friday that all 26 EU countries, bar Hungary, had come to an agreement on “all components” of the budget revision, including the cash for Ukraine.

Sweden needed to consult its parliament before giving its final green light.

“One leader couldn’t agree on this,” Michel said, in a reference to Hungary.

Leaders will get a second chance to strike a deal at an extraordinary summit expected to be held in Brussels in January.

“We will revert to this matter early next year and we will try to project unanimity in order to make it possible for us to implement this,” Michel said, also leaving the door open to the possibility of 26 member states pushing through a deal without the explicit backing of Hungary.

Several leaders also signalled they could back a support package that would not include Hungary, in order to bypass Orbán’s veto. Estonia’s Prime Minister told reporters as she arrived for the second day of the summit that “we are working on these ideas.”

“But of course, it’s much more difficult because you have to think of new instruments and that means also going to the parliaments, getting a mandate and it is more, more difficult this way,” she noted.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that “it is possible for 26 member states to provide the money on a bilateral basis, not through the MFF, not through the European Union structures.”

“But it’s not where we want to be,” he added.

Earlier on Thursday, EU leaders took the momentous decision to open negotiations on Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova’s accession to the bloc without Hungary’s vote, despite the decision requiring unanimity.

Orbán unexpectedly dropped his veto when he was asked by German chancellor Olaf Scholz to leave the room, a prime minister confirmed to Euronews, in an unprecedented choreographed move that allowed Hungary to abstain.

Michel did not dismiss the possibility of similar political manoeuvres in January’s summit.

But there are fears a decision without unanimous consensus from all 27 leaders could debilitate EU unity and set a dangerous precedent for future decisions on foreign policy.

The Hungarian premier has fiercely criticised sending further cash to Ukraine, citing fears about what he claims to be high levels of corruption in the war-torn country and calling on the bloc to rather devote its resources to making peace with Russia.

“The money for Ukraine in the short term is already in the (EU) budget. If we would like to give longer-term and bigger money, we have to manage outside the (EU) budget. And we support it,” Orbán said before the negotiations on Thursday.

The failure to seal the deal comes at a pivotal time in Kyiv’s war efforts, with US funds also currently blocked in Congress amid resistance from Republican senators.