Hungary blocks €50bn in EU aid for Ukraine hours after membership talks approved

Hungary blocks €50bn in EU aid for Ukraine hours after membership talks approved

The Guardian reports:

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has blocked a €50bn EU aid package for Ukraine, hours after leaders side-stepped his opposition to agree to open talks with Kyiv on joining the bloc.

A crunch summit in Brussels broke up close to 3am on Friday with the Hungarian leader refusing to green light funding to help Ukraine’s government over the next four years.

EU leaders will postpone their discussion on the budget to January, concluding that after seven hours of wrangling they were not going to get the Hungarian leader’s support.

“You can do whatever you can do but I don’t want to be part of it. So that was his explanation for this,” Kaja Kallas, the Estonian prime minister, said on Friday arriving for a second day of the European summit.

Posting on X, Orbán wrote: “Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine.”

The block from Hungary – Russia’s closest ally in the EU – dealt a blow to Kyiv and its backers only hours after the 26 member states faced down the Hungarian leader and agreed to give a historic green light for the start of Ukraine’s negotiation for EU membership.

“With 26 countries we agree. There is no agreement from Hungary at the moment, but I am very confident for next year,” the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said.

“I am confident the 26 members want this,” said Kallas. “As long as he [Orbán] says the wrong things, but does the right things we are OK. We have been united so far and we were able to deliver the decision on the accession talks yesterday.”

Orbán in effect abstained from the vote on accession talks for Ukraine after leaders said his veto would have a devastating impact on morale in Ukraine and test the credibility of the bloc’s existence.

One source said: “He was told it would be a good time for him to go for coffee and he left the room. But he knew a vote would be taken in his absence so in that sense it was pre-agreed.”

While Orbán was left isolated by the other 26 EU member states earlier in the day over Ukraine’s membership, the leaders decided that they could not repeat the manoeuvre on financial aid to Kyiv, conscious that other countries, including the UK, had used their vetos previously.

Orbán remained defiant on Friday morning, warning he could still block Ukraine’s entry to the EU at some future stage in the years-long process it normally took to join. [Continue reading…]

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