Brussels – December 16, 2023
In a significant development, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has wielded his veto power to block €50 billion (approximately $54 billion) in European Union financial aid earmarked for Ukraine. The decision came mere hours after the European Union reached a consensus to initiate formal membership talks with Kyiv, a move staunchly opposed by Hungary.
The contentious veto, promised by Orban for several weeks, dealt a blow to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had recently sought additional financial support from the United States without success. The funds were intended to aid Ukraine in its ongoing struggle to remove Russian forces from its territory.
“Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine,” Orban, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin within the EU, announced on social media.
The European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels, expressed their commitment to revisiting the aid issue in January after Orban refused to endorse the supplementary funding for Ukraine’s government. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, optimistic about reaching an agreement in the New Year, stated, “We still have some time; Ukraine is not out of money in the next few weeks.”
Rutte confirmed the agreement of 26 countries, excluding Hungary, and suggested reconvening for a deal in late January. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo emphasized the importance of financial support for Ukraine, stating, “It is just as important that Ukraine has the means to continue the war and rebuild its country.”
Critics have accused Orban of leveraging Kyiv’s survival to pressure Brussels into releasing frozen EU funds, expressing concerns about Hungary’s commitment to the rule of law. In a perceived last-minute concession, the European Commission agreed to unblock €10 billion (approximately $11 billion) of the frozen funds, leaving €21 billion (approximately $23 billion) beyond Orban’s reach.
Orban, however, denied any connection between Hungary’s stance on Ukraine and the frozen funds, stating, “That’s not our style.”
The conflict in Ukraine remains entrenched in the country’s eastern front lines, with Russian President Putin claiming progress on Thursday. Putin asserted the presence of 617,000 Russian soldiers in Ukraine since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.
Simultaneously, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the imperative for continued Western support to protect Europe. Stoltenberg warned, “If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is a real risk that his aggression will not end there. Our support is not charity – it is an investment in our security.”