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12 Jan, 2024 14:27

Brussels ready to offer Orban a deal on Ukraine aid – FT

The European Commission is reportedly willing to allow the Hungarian leader opt out of the funding package after one year
Brussels ready to offer Orban a deal on Ukraine aid – FT

EU officials are reportedly prepared to bow to the demands of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban regarding a stalled €50 billion ($54.6 billion) aid package for Ukraine, according to several senior sources who spoke to the Financial Times.

Budapest has been holding up Brussels' latest Kiev aid package since December, with Orban insisting on ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict through peace negotiations rather than prolonging the crisis. The Hungarian leader has also threatened to veto Ukraine’s accession to the union, arguing that it posed many risks to the bloc and its economy, as well as the fact that Kiev is still “at war.”

In response, Brussels has been pressuring Budapest to approve the package, arguing that time was running short for Kiev. The issue has become more urgent given that US aid for Ukraine has effectively “ground to a halt,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as Democrats and Republicans struggle to compromise on greenlighting additional funding for the country.

Earlier this week, however, Budapest softened its stance on the EU aid package, stating that it would consider lifting its veto in exchange for annual reviews on how the money was being spent over four years. According to Politico, under this plan, Kiev would receive €12.5 billion in grants and loans annually, which would be subject to unanimous approvals by the European Council.

The Financial Times, citing three EU officials, has now claimed that Brussels is seemingly willing to accept these conditions and would allow Hungary to stop the funding deal halfway through if Kiev does not meet the requirements to receive EU aid in 2025

The annual audits of the aid would also be supplemented by an “emergency brake” clause, according to the Financial Times, which would allow any member country to put concerns about Ukraine payments up for discussion at an EU leaders summit.

These concessions, in addition to Brussels unlocking €10 billion in EU funding for Hungary last month, are likely to be enough to convince Orban to lift his veto on Ukraine aid, one senior Hungarian official told FT, noting, however, that Budapest’s ultimate decision is “still uncertain.”