Hungary blocks €50bn of EU funding for Ukraine

  • By Jaroslav Lukiv
  • BBC News

Image caption,

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Brussels on Thursday

Hungary has blocked €50bn ($55bn; £43bn) in EU aid for Ukraine hours after agreement was reached on starting membership talks.

“Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban posted on social media after talks in Brussels.

EU leaders said talks on aid for Ukraine would resume early next year.

Ukraine is critically dependant on EU and US funding as it continues to fight occupying Russian forces.

Hungary has long opposed membership for Ukraine but did not veto that move.

Mr Orban left the negotiating room momentarily in what officials described as a pre-agreed and constructive manner, while the other 26 leaders went ahead with the vote.

A spokesperson for Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said the agreement had been unanimous.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the EU decision on membership talks as a “victory”.

Commenting on Mr Orban’s opposition to the aid, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “We still have some time, Ukraine is not out of money in the next few weeks.”

“We agreed with the 26 countries,” he added. “Victor Orban, Hungary, were not yet able to do that. I am fairly confident we can get a deal early next year. We are thinking of late January.”

Ukraine and neighbouring Moldova applied to join the EU after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. They were both given candidate status last June, while Georgia was passed over at the time.

Mr Zelensky was delighted by the EU’s announcement on the membership. “This is a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe. A victory that motivates, inspires and strengthens,” he wrote in a post on X.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu said it was an honour to share the path to EU accession with Ukraine. “We wouldn’t be here today without Ukraine’s brave resistance against Russia’s brutal invasion,” she wrote.

Earlier this year, Moldova alleged that Russia was seeking to seize power in Chisinau.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan welcomed the EU’s “historic” move to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova, calling it a “crucial step toward fulfilling their Euro-Atlantic aspirations”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised his fellow leaders for showing a “strong sign of support”, adding that it was clear that both Ukraine and Moldova belonged to “the European family”. A diplomat at the summit said it was Mr Scholz’s idea for Mr Orban to leave the room to enable the vote to go through.

Earlier on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin mocked Ukraine and claimed Western support was running out: “Excuse my vulgarity, but everything is being brought in as a freebie. But those freebies could run out at some point.”

Talks on joining the EU can take years, so Thursday’s decision will not guarantee Ukraine membership.

EU candidate countries have to pass a series of reforms to adhere to standards ranging from the rule of law to the economy, although the EU’s executive has already praised Ukraine for completing more than 90% of the steps taken so far on justice and tackling corruption.

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