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30 Jan, 2024 14:00

Orban reveals condition for backing new EU Ukraine aid

The Hungarian leader wants the bloc to dole out annual payments to Kiev rather than issue a €50 billion windfall
Orban reveals condition for backing new EU Ukraine aid

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said that the EU still intends to “blackmail” Budapest despite his offer of a compromise deal with Brussels, whereby Ukraine would receive a yearly transfer of economic aid rather than a €50 billion ($54.2 billion) lump sum. 

EU leaders will meet on Thursday to discuss a four-year, €50 billion economic aid package for Ukraine, drawn from the bloc’s collective budget. Orban is the sole EU leader pledging to oppose the package, and the Council of the EU has responded by drawing up plans to sabotage the Hungarian economy, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. 

Speaking to France’s Le Point news magazine on Monday, Orban said Hungary had made a “compromise offer” to the Council. This would see aid to Ukraine parceled out every year after a unanimous vote by member states, without any modifications to the bloc’s budget – which was agreed three years ago and did not include a four year, €50 billion commitment to Kiev.

“First, we don’t know what will happen in the next three or four months in Ukraine,” Orban explained. “Second, no one knows whether or not Americans will participate in the game, whether today or after the US presidential election in November 2024.

“Third, who did the counting? Who did the calculation? Why exactly €50 billion? We do not know exactly what this amount corresponds to,” he continued, adding that the bloc should not commit to a four-year aid package of this size when the political situation in the union could be radically altered by this summer’s EU elections.

Orban said he presented this proposal to the Council before the apparent plan to torpedo Hungary’s economy was leaked to the Financial Times. The article, he said, can be interpreted as Brussels’ response to his compromise offer.

According to the newspaper, the Council plans to withhold EU aid to Hungary in order to discourage foreign investment, weaken the Hungarian forint, and drive up unemployment. A “strategy to explicitly seek to undermine a member state’s economy would mark a major new step for the bloc,” the Financial Times noted.

A spokesperson for the Council refused to confirm or deny the existence of the plan, telling the newspaper that it does not comment on leaks. 

“We don’t come from a kindergarten,” Orban told Le Point. “If the Financial Times publishes a document detailing… blackmail against us, we can be sure that it exists.” 

“It’s a sort of blackmailer’s manual,” he continued. “It is important for Europeans to understand that member states, if they disagree on issues like war, migration, gender, immediately experience an imperialist reaction from Brussels.”

Hungary has faced similar threats from Brussels before, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen telling lawmakers earlier this month that around €20 billion in funds earmarked for Budapest would remain blocked until Orban liberalizes his conservative policies on migration and LGBTQ issues. 

Should the EU’s 26 other member states refuse to accept his compromise deal, Orban did not say whether he would maintain or abandon his veto on the €50 billion plan.