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February 27, 2024

Hungary Defies EU Push for Ukraine Aid as Tensions Boil Over

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Jan 29, 2024

The European Union is facing its biggest political crisis in years as Hungary continues to resist approval of billions in financial aid for Ukraine, despite growing threats of retaliation from EU leaders. As anger mounts over Hungary’s veto, secret plans have reportedly even been drafted to “sabotage” the Hungarian economy should they fail to relent.

EU Seeks Unity on Ukraine Aid Amid Rising Acrimony

A high-stakes summit between EU leaders this week could determine whether the bloc maintains a united front on the Ukraine conflict, or descends into bitter internal wrangling.

The EU has pledged €50 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine over the next year, as the country struggles to keep basic services running and pay public sector wages in the face of Russia’s unrelenting military onslaught. However, the aid package requires unanimous backing from all 27 member states.

Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has emerged as the lone holdout, leveraging his veto power to resist linking approval of the Ukraine funding to rule-of-law requirements. Orban has had a tense relationship with EU leadership in recent years over concerns that he is backsliding on democratic principles.

By torpedoing a consensus on Ukrainian aid, Hungary risks being seen as an impediment to Europe’s united support for Kyiv as the war drags into its second year. The move has drawn rebukes from leaders in many other European capitals, as well threats of serious political and economic consequences.

“There is impatience with Hungary – it is blocking vital aid to Ukraine by making links with issues not connected to aid,” said one senior EU diplomat. The funding must be approved soon, the diplomat warned, or “there could be a political explosion.”

Sabotage and Sanctions Floated to Break Hungary’s Resistance

With the summit fast approaching, some EU officials have floated drastic measures to overcome Hungary’s obstinacy on the Ukraine package, including schemes to effectively bypass its veto and even plans to deliberately destabilize its economy.

A secret document obtained by the Financial Times outlined various “deterrence measures” to punish Hungary financially if Orban refuses to drop his opposition, including:

  • Freezing billions of euros in development funds and farm subsidies
  • Excluding Hungary from key EU decision-making
  • Imposing crushing fines over alleged rule-of-law breaches

The document also suggested the European Investment Bank could call in existing loans to Hungary early, in a bid to trigger credit downgrades and sow financial chaos.

However, most leaders seem to prefer compromise over confrontation as the hour grows late to approve the assistance for Ukraine. Sources say intense backroom negotiations are underway to craft an acceptable solution, though substantial concessions to Budapest’s demands may be required.

Timeline of Key Events in EU-Hungary Standoff

Date Event
Jan 18 Hungary’s parliament passes resolution rejecting any Ukraine aid conditionality
Jan 23 Hungary drops objections to using EU budget for weapons funding, but maintains opposition to broader €50 billion assistance package
Jan 25 Leaked EU document outlines potential “deterrence measures” against Hungarian economy
Jan 26 Senior EU officials accuse Hungary of deliberately complicating talks on Ukraine aid
Jan 28 Orban doubles down on resisting aid linked to rule-of-law requirements
Jan 29 Secret EU plans emerge to destabilize Hungary through financial sabotage
Jan 30-31 High stakes EU summit seen as last chance for agreement on aid package

Dire Warnings as Clock Ticks on Aid Approval

European leaders have underscored that time is running short to mobilize financial help for Ukraine, as it struggles to provide basic services and pay public sector wages with state coffers depleted from the prolonged conflict.

Some observers warn that failure to approve assistance soon could have grave humanitarian impacts and deal a symbolic blow to Ukraine’s morale. It may also signal disunity that Russia could exploit by ratcheting up military aggression across wider swaths of territory.

“This summit will be make-or-break for EU support for Ukraine,” said Tom Parker, political analyst at the Kyiv Post. “Millions of ordinary Ukrainians are depending on this money just to keep the lights on.”

Others caution that sidelining Hungary over the Ukraine standoff may only push Orban closer toward allying with Russia. There are also fears that punitive economic measures could backfire by bolstering his standing among supporters at home.

With so much at stake, marathon negotiations are likely in the days ahead to broker an 11th hour compromise. But the heightened tensions have exposed growing fissures within the EU that could linger long after the aid package is settled.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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