EU approves €50 billion in Ukraine aid
EU leaders have signed off on a €50 billion ($54 billion) package of economic aid to Ukraine, overcoming resistance from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Hungarian leader accused Brussels of “blackmailing” him into accepting the deal.
European Council President Charles Michel announced the news on Thursday morning, minutes after the bloc’s leaders sat down for talks in Brussels.
“All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion support package for Ukraine within the EU budget,” Michel wrote on X. “This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine.”
The sum will be drawn from the EU’s collective budget and doled out over four years to Kiev, where it will be used to pay public sector salaries, keep government departments open, and prop up the beleaguered welfare system. The EU budget, already agreed three years ago, will have to be modified to include the mammoth aid package.
Any such modifications require the unanimous approval of all 27 bloc member states. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned for months that he would veto the proposal, arguing that the EU has no idea how the money will be spent and no idea what will happen in Ukraine in the coming months. Orban has also argued that Ukraine cannot defeat Russia on the battlefield, and that Western leaders should be pushing Kiev toward a ceasefire and peace talks.
Orban has described Ukraine as “one of the most corrupt countries in the world.” Transparency International ranks Ukraine 104th out of 180 in its Corruption Perceptions Index report, and over the weekend, the country’s Security Service (SBU) announced that it had uncovered a major scheme by high-ranking defense officials to embezzle money intended to purchase ammunition.
Earlier this week, the Financial Times revealed that the European Council had drawn up a plan to cut funding to Budapest and tank the Hungarian economy if Orban maintained his veto. Orban accused the “imperialist” EU of trying to “blackmail” him, and said that he proposed a compromise deal whereby Ukraine would receive a smaller transfer of aid every year, which any member state could veto.
Brussels rejected Orban’s proposal, he told France’s Le Point news magazine on Monday. “They say that if we behave like a sovereign country, Hungary will immediately face a vast financial blockade,” he said. “Knowing Brussels, they are capable of it.”
Under the terms of the deal agreed on Thursday, EU leaders will debate the implementation of the package annually, while the budget will be reviewed in two years. Speaking anonymously, multiple European diplomats told Politico that these measures were included to placate the Hungarian PM.
However, other anonymous officials said that Orban was given no concessions, and was pressured to accept that “there was no alternative than giving in on the money to Ukraine.”