February 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

Hungary blocks 50 billion euros in EU funding for Ukraine

Hungary blocks 50 billion euros in EU funding for Ukraine
  • Written by Yaroslav Lukiev in London and Jessica Parker in Kiev
  • BBC News

Hungary has blocked €50bn ($55bn, £43bn) in EU aid to Ukraine – just hours after reaching an agreement on the start of membership talks.

“Night shift summary: veto over additional funds for Ukraine,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after Thursday’s talks in Brussels.

European Union leaders said aid negotiations would resume early next year.

Ukraine relies heavily on funding from the European Union and the United States as it continues to fight the occupying Russian forces.

Hungary – which maintains close ties with Russia – has long opposed Ukraine’s membership but has not vetoed the move.

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

He told Hungarian state radio on Friday that he fought for eight hours to stop his EU partners but was unable to convince them. He added that Ukraine’s path to EU membership would be a long process in any case, adding that the parliament in Budapest could still prevent this from happening if it wanted to.

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

At a press conference in the early hours of Friday, Michel confirmed that all but one EU leader had agreed to the aid package and the bloc’s broader budget proposals – although Sweden still needs to consult its parliament.

“We will return to this issue early next year and try to get consensus,” he said.

The loans and grants were intended to keep the country prosperous, by helping to finance public services, wages and pensions.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian occupation forces has stalled with the onset of winter, and there are fears that the Russians will simply outmaneuver Ukraine.

Video explanation,

WATCH: Zelensky had a lively conversation with Orban this week in Argentina

Zelensky expressed his happiness with the European Union’s announcement regarding 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.

Ukrainian politician Kira Rudik added “we were really happy” after the news of EU membership talks, saying it showed that “Ukraine has a future at the moment.”

But she said the feeling was now “bittersweet” because of the funding freeze, which she described as “a huge frustration.” “It is impossible to have a European future without winning the war,” she told the BBC.

Earlier this week, a senior Ukrainian official told the BBC that EU membership talks are currently more important than the €50 billion, because of the message it sends to both the Ukrainian people and Vladimir Putin.

There is some confidence in Kiev that Brussels will be able to find a way to channel new economic money, whether by hook or by crook.

Ukraine and neighboring Moldova applied to join the EU after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Both were granted candidate status last June, while Georgia was bypassed at the time.

Moldova’s President Maia Sandu said that it is a great honor to share with Ukraine the path towards joining the European Union. “We would not be here today without Ukraine’s courageous resistance against Russia’s brutal invasion,” she wrote.

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

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan welcomed the “historic” step taken by the European Union to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova, calling it a “decisive step toward realizing their Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

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

The Hungarian leader later distanced himself from his colleagues with a video message on Facebook: “Ukraine’s membership in the European Union is a bad decision. Hungary does not want to participate in this bad decision.”

Orban also said that Ukraine should not receive significant funds from the EU because it is not part of the bloc.

Earlier on Thursday, President Putin mocked Ukraine and claimed Western support was running out: “Excuse my vulgarity, but everything is given as a freebie. But these freebies may run out at some point.”

Talks on joining the European Union could take years, so Thursday’s decision will not guarantee Ukraine’s membership.

Candidate countries to join the European Union must pass a series of reforms to adhere to criteria ranging from the rule of law to the economy, although the EU executive has already praised Ukraine for completing more than 90% of the steps taken so far in the field of justice and tackling corruption.

There are also other countries, besides Hungary, that are skeptical about expanding the European Union beyond the current 27 countries.

Talk of expansion often comes alongside renewed proposals for comprehensive reform of the bloc that are often impractical on far less important issues.

But it remains a morale booster, and comes just in time as Ukraine enters its second winter after a full-scale Russian invasion, and as the war in the Middle East turns the world’s attention elsewhere.