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Top Hungarian official issues Ukraine aid ultimatum

The EU must unfreeze all €30 billion earmarked for Budapest, an adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Orban has insisted

Hungary is willing to drop its opposition to the EU’s latest aid package for Ukraine only if Brussels unfreezes funding for Budapest, a chief adviser to Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said. The EU has blocked the money for Hungary over claims that it has undermined democratic values.

The EU is seeking to approve a four-year, €50 billion ($54 billion) package to help Kiev in the conflict with Moscow. However, those plans are in the balance, largely due to Hungarian leader Orban’s argument that the bloc’s assistance to Ukraine has not produced tangible results.

Speaking to Bloomberg on Tuesday, political adviser Balazs Orban remarked that “Hungary’s EU funding and Ukraine’s financing are two separate issues.” He claimed, however, that by insisting that Ukraine’s funding should come from an amended EU budget, Brussels had essentially linked the two issues.

The adviser stressed that the EU must unfreeze all of the €30 billion earmarked for Hungary, of which €22 billion is part of the bloc’s cohesion fund. The program is intended to shore up the economies of poorer members, but Hungary has been denied the funding over its alleged failure to protect the rule of law, academic freedom for refugees, and the LGBTQ community. Another €6 billion has been suspended over corruption concerns, while €2.6 billion has been blocked over allegations of homophobia and a crackdown on asylum seekers.

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File photo of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky
EU mulling emergency Ukraine funding to override Hungary veto – FT

As things stand, the EU is expected to unblock €10 billion if Hungary passes a series of reforms to make its courts more independent.

Balazs Orban also noted that as part of the negotiations, Hungary could consider accepting additional EU funding for border security and economic subsidies.

At the same time, the adviser reiterated that Ukraine’s entry to the EU remains a “red line” for Budapest. He insisted that it would send a “negative signal” if the bloc opened formal accession talks with Kiev, adding that Budapest believes Ukraine has not met the requirements to join the EU.

The EU Commission recommended opening membership talks with Ukraine in early November, insisting that Kiev had made substantial progress on domestic reforms. Austria and Slovakia, however, have joined Hungary in opposing a fast-tracked accession process. Vienna has spoken against preferential treatment for Ukraine, while Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar said he “could not imagine” Kiev joining the union while it was still in a “state of war.”

December 13, 2023 at 07:11PM
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