Orban threatens to block Ukraine's accession to EU – Politico
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to block the EU's assistance for Ukraine and the country's future accession to the bloc
This will be valid until EU leaders agree to review their support strategy for Kyiv in a letter to EU Council chief Charles Michel, Politico has reported.
Orban has called on the EU Council to hold a "strategic discussion" on Ukraine at an EU meeting in Brussels in mid-December and warned that Hungary may bloc the aid amid decreasing assistance from the US.
"The European Council should analyse the implementation and effectiveness of our current policy towards Ukraine, including the various assistance programmes," Orban wrote in his letter.
He also questioned why Europe should continue to support Ukraine at a time when the US, which has provided the bulk of military assistance to Kyiv, may not be able to continue funding due to the impasse over future support.
"The European Council should hold a frank and open discussion on the feasibility of the EU's strategic objectives in Ukraine," Orban added.
Politico claims that Orban's letter raises the stakes in the long-running standoff between Budapest and Brussels, which is withholding €13 billion in EU funds for Hungary over concerns that the country does not meet EU standards for the rule of law.
"Without saying it directly, the letter suggests that Budapest could use its veto power to block the payment of planned €50 billion in aid to Ukraine," the article says.
These funds are needed to finance the Ukrainian government while the armed forces resist a full-scale Russian attack. In addition to the €50 billion, Orban threatens to block €500 million in planned military aid to Kyiv, as well as the start of formal negotiations on Ukraine's accession to the EU, which the leaders hoped to approve at the next European Council meeting in December.
Orban also mentioned security guarantees for Ukraine
In his letter, the Hungarian prime minister raises the question of whether the strategy of assistance to Ukraine is viable without US support and how Europe sees the future security architecture after the war.
"The European Council is not in a position to make key decisions on proposed security guarantees or additional financial support for Ukraine, to approve further strengthening of the EU sanctions regime or to agree on the future of the enlargement process if there is no consensus on our future strategy for Ukraine," Orban claimed.
On November 9, the European Commission proposed a support package for Ukraine of up to €18 billion for 2023. This assistance will be provided in concessional loans to be disbursed in regular instalments starting in January 2023.
On December 13, EU ambassadors unanimously approved a decision to provide €18 billion in macro-financial assistance to Ukraine. However, concessions had to be made to Hungary, which had been blocking the decision.
After months of wrangling, Budapest finally agreed to the package after securing what it said were concessions from the EU on Hungary's aid.
Asked whether the EU would go down this road again if Hungary blocked the aid, European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said this week: "Last year, we did discuss a 'plan B'… But we managed to avoid this scenario last year. I hope we will be able to avoid this scenario this year as well."
Bloomberg reported the day before that an alternative proposal would include national guarantees by member states to raise funds on the markets if Budapest blocks the revision of the EU's long-term budget, which includes aid to Ukraine in the package.
Last month, the Financial Times reported that senior EU officials are considering allocating around €13 billion in EU funds to Hungary, which are currently blocked due to unresolved rule of law issues.
This move, according to the FT, would encourage Budapest to increase the EU budget for 2024-2027, including the allocation of €50 billion for Ukraine for this period.