Hungary blocks €50bn in EU aid for Ukraine hours after membership talks were approved | Ukraine

Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán has blocked a €50bn EU aid package for Ukraine, hours after leaders side-stepped his opposition to agree to open talks with Kyiv on joining the bloc.

A crunch summit in Brussels broke up after a day of wrangling as the Hungarian leader refused to green light funding to help Ukraine’s government over the next four years.

Posting on X, formally known as Twitter, Orbán wrote “Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine”.

“We will come back to the issue next year in the #EUCO after proper preparation.”

The EU’s other 26 leaders agreed to come back to the debate early next year to try to thrash out an agreement on the desperately needed support for Kyiv.

“With 26 countries we agree. There is no agreement from Hungary at the moment, but I am very confident for next year,” Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said.

The blockage from Hungary – Russia’s closest ally in the EU – dealt a blow to Kyiv and its backers only hours after they had celebrated the bloc taking the symbolic step of agreeing to open membership talks.

Orbán had also opposed starting EU accession talks, but agreed to step out of the negotiating room to allow the other EU leaders to take a consensus decision without him. He later denounced the agreement as “a completely senseless, irrational and wrong decision.”

On the financial aid package, Orbán had argued that Ukraine should not get such large amounts of money from the EU budget as it is not part of the bloc. Other leaders have assured Kyiv they could channel aid to Ukraine outside the EU budget if Hungary maintains its blockade.

Critics have accused the Hungarian leader of holding Kyiv’s survival hostage in a bid to force Brussels to release billions of euros of EU funds frozen over a rule of law dispute. In what some saw as a last-minute concession, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, agreed on Wednesday to unblock €10bn of that cash.

Another €21bn still remains out of Orbán’s grasp, but he denied that Hungary was making a link between the cash and its Ukraine stance. “That’s not our style,” he said.

The row over financial aid comes at a dire time for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, after Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces has failed to make major gains and with US President Joe Biden so far unable to get a $60bn package for Kyiv through the US Congress.

Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press contributed to this report


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