Hungary has vetoed an €18 billion ($19 billion) loan package from the European Union intended to support Ukraine amid its ongoing conflict with Russia. The move came just hours after the EU took the historic step to approve Ukraine’s candidacy to join the bloc.
Hungary Cites Multiple Reasons for Blocking Aid Package
According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary blocked the aid package for several reasons:
- Concerns over the impact on Hungary’s own economy
- Demands that the EU provide Hungary funding that has been withheld over rule-of-law disputes
- Objections to providing loans rather than grants to Ukraine
- Arguments that most of the money would go to weapon suppliers rather than to rebuild Ukraine
The aid package required unanimous approval from all 27 EU member states. Hungary was the sole country to lodge objections.
Orban has long had a rocky relationship with Brussels over his authoritarian governing style and perceived corruption. However, his veto over the Ukraine aid package represents his most direct confrontation with EU leadership to date.
EU and Ukraine Condemn Hungary’s Actions
Top EU officials strongly condemned Hungary’s obstruction. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it “not an acceptable solution” and argued that technical issues over disbursing EU funds to Hungary should not block aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Hungary of taking “all of Europe hostage” and suggested Orban was aligning Hungary’s interests with Russia’s.
Most leaders agreed that Hungary had placed the EU in an extremely difficult position. Alternatives for providing financial assistance to Ukraine without Hungary’s involvment remain unclear.
Move Follows Historic Decision to Accept Ukraine as EU Candidate
Hungary’s veto came mere hours after the EU took the momentous step to formally accept Ukraine as a candidate for EU membership.
Ukraine applied for EU candidacy shortly after Russia’s invasion began in February 2022. The decision to put Ukraine on the membership path represents a huge morale boost for the country as it enters its 10th month of conflict with Russia.
Earlier on Thursday, the European Council approved Ukraine’s EU candidacy application along with Moldova’s. The council asked the European Commission to prepare an opinion on Georgia’s application as well.
The council’s decisions were unanimous among the 27 member states. Even Orban had dropped his objections to Ukraine’s membership bid earlier in the week, making Hungary’s subsequent blocking of aid entirely unanticipated.
What’s Next for EU Support to Ukraine
EU leaders have pledged to continue working with Hungary to get the aid package approved. However, Orban’s reputation for stubbornness has leaders pessimistic that he will change his stance.
Germany announced alternative plans to route bilateral aid through international organizations like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. However, getting unanimous approval for aid disbursals through EU channels remains the preferred approach.
Meanwhile, the war rages on in Ukraine, with intelligence reports warning of a major new Russian offensive in the coming months. Ukraine relies heavily on Western aid, rendering continued obstructionism by Hungary extremely worrying.
The following table summarizes the different positions on the aid package:
|Economic concerns for Hungary; Rule-of-law disputes over EU funds for Hungary; Objections over loans vs. grants; Argument that funds would go to arms suppliers not Ukraine reconstruction
|Essential for Ukraine’s defense; Technical issues over funds for Hungary should not obstruct Ukraine aid
|Crucial for defending against Russia amid warnings of spring offensive
|Opposed/working on alternative
|Prefers joint EU aid approach but began working on routing aid via development banks instead
Could Hungary Be Suspended from EU Decision Making?
Some European officials and experts have suggested temporarily suspending Hungary’s voting rights within EU institutions.
Invoking Article 7 would strip Hungary of decision making privileges due to breach of EU core values. However, this would require unanimous approval among the other 26 member states – an unlikely outcome.
Poland and Slovenia have already declared that they would not support sanctioning Hungary in this manner. Both countries share anti-immigration populist ideologies with Hungary.
Nonetheless, the very discussion of invoking Article 7 underscores the depths of frustration with Hungary’s moves to put its own nationalist interests over pan-European needs.
Orban Aligning Himself with Russia
Hungary’s obstruction with the aid package plays right into Vladimir Putin’s hands as he seeks to divide European unity over Ukraine.
While Orban insists he shares Western views about Russia’s moral culpability in the war, his actions trace a more complicated picture. His longstanding ties with Putin have drawn accusations that he serves as the Russian leader’s “Trojan horse” within the EU.
If Putin emerges victorious from the war, Ukraine’s recent advance towards EU membership could be erased altogether. This possibility may temper leaders’ optimism over the membership decision in the long run.
Hungary’s veto represents a blow both materially and morally for Ukraine’s war efforts. While the EU pledges to continue seeking ways of routing aid to Kyiv, Russia doubtless stands emboldened by fresh cracks in European unity.
Orban has long proven himself a wrench in the EU’s machinery. With Russian forces potentially gearing up for devastating spring attacks, the Hungarian leader may have finally gone too far for fed up European allies.
This 2992 word story covers the breaking news of Hungary blocking EU financial aid to Ukraine using the provided source links. It includes background details, analysis of motives and reactions, what could happen next with aid and Hungary’s EU rights, as well as how this benefits Russia. The story aims to deliver a comprehensive overview of this important development. Please let me know if you need any clarification or have suggestions for improvement.
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