Officials in Brussels have reportedly drawn up a secret plan to sabotage Hungary’s economy if Viktor Orbán decides this week to again block a €50bn support package for Ukraine.
The plan, reported by the Financial Times, reflects the fury mounting across European capitals at what one diplomat called the “policy of blackmail” being pursued by the Hungarian prime minister, who leads the bloc’s most pro-Russia state.
The FT said the strategy involved targeting Hungary’s economy, weakening its currency and reducing investor confidence.
Orbán blocked the €50bn in Ukraine funds in December, forcing an emergency leaders meeting to be scheduled on Thursday to revisit the matter.
According to the FT, the document declares that “in the case of no agreement in the February 1 [summit], other heads of state and government would publicly declare that in the light of the unconstructive behaviour of the Hungarian PM … they cannot imagine that [EU funds would be provided to Budapest]”.
Hungary’s economy is heavily reliant on the single market, with nearly all its exports going across the border to neighbouring countries. According to European Commission data, intra-EU trade accounts for 78% of Hungary’s exports (Germany 28%, Romania, Slovakia, Austria and Italy all 5%), while 3% goes to the US and 3% to the UK.
The EU has already tried to use funds as a tool to force Hungary into line on policies and the application of the rule of law, a basic requirement of membership of the bloc; €20bn of funds are frozen over concerns about LGBTQ+ rights and other issues.
János Bóka, Hungary’s EU minister, told the FT that his country “does not give in to pressure” and there was no connection between Ukraine and general access to EU funds. “Hungary has and will continue to participate constructively in the negotiations,” he said. [Continue reading…]