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15 Dec, 2023 06:45

Hungary blocks EU’s $54 billion for Ukraine

Prime Minister Viktor Orban previously lamented the “bad decision” to begin accession talks with Kiev, which he declined to block
Hungary blocks EU’s $54 billion for Ukraine

Hungary has vetoed an EU plan to provide tens of billions of euros in assistance to Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced on Friday. He was peaking after a tense overnight session of the European Council in Brussels having previously walked out and abstained when other national leaders voted to launch formal talks on Kiev’s bid to join the bloc.

The plan proposed by the European Commission would amend the joint EU budget. Brussels wanted to allocate €50 billion ($54 billion) for Ukraine in spending stretched over four years. Budapest opposed the plan, arguing that any assistance should be for a shorter term and pending renewal after review. Hungary also did not want to fund it through the joint budget.

Orban reported the outcome of that part of the discussion on social media, saying he had vetoed the aid proposal and review of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the EU’s long-term budget.

Hours earlier, the Hungarian leader reiterated his government’s objections to having membership talks with Ukraine but after Orban abstained on the vote Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, announced that negotiations had been given the green light after eight hours of debates.

Orban blasted the decision as “completely senseless, irrational and incorrect,” and said that his nation was not part of it. The other states of the 27-member bloc insisted otherwise; he said in a video statement that “if the 26 decide to do so, they should go their own way.”

Budapest believes that Kiev has not made sufficient progress in implementing EU-demanded reforms. In the days prior to the Council session, Orban indicated that he may veto the proposal, but chose not to do so.

Instead, he reportedly walked out of the meeting before the vote. This made the decision technically unanimous as required by EU rules, without forcing Budapest to support it. Sources cited by The Guardian said the maneuver was unusual and pre-arranged by participants.

Michel called the outcome a “historic moment that ensures the credibility and the strength of the EU.” Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said history is “made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom.”

Meanwhile, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer was not in the room when other leaders agreed on the 12th package of EU sanctions on Russia, according to Politico. He was reportedly blocking the restrictions due to Kiev’s branding of Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank as an “international sponsor of war” over its continued business in Russia.