The EU has a ‘Plan B’ if Hungary vetoes €50 billion aid to Ukraine

European Union flags fly outside the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium on November 8, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Hermann/File photo Obtaining licensing rights

  • Hungary has established closer relations with Moscow
  • Ukraine needs continued support from the European Union in its war with Russia
  • Opening talks on Kiev’s membership in the European Union needs Hungary’s support

BRUSSELS/BUDDAPEST (Reuters) – The European Union will be able to circumvent any Hungarian veto and give Ukraine 50 billion euros ($53.4 billion) in aid, European Union officials said, as Kiev struggles to repel a Russian invasion 21 months ago. In the war.

The bloc’s executive has proposed expanding budget support to help Ukraine pay salaries and cover other expenses as the conflict continues, and the 27 EU member states are scheduled to vote on the package at a summit on December 14-15 in Brussels.

But some worry that aid might be blocked by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has touted his ties with Moscow and objected to similar support in the past. Such payments from the common EU budget need unanimous support from all member states.

In response to a request for comment, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said that any financial aid to Ukraine should be separate from the European Union budget. He said that the European Union needs a new strategy for Ukraine and that all financial decisions should stem from that strategy.

If Budapest uses its veto, two EU officials said the bloc has a way around that by asking each of the other EU governments to prepare its own aid package with Kiev. Overall, bilateral agreements will reach this goal.

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One EU official said: “Hungary risks draining its fortunes too much. We would prefer them to join the EU, but there comes a time when people get tired of Budapest holding everyone hostage. The alternative solution is cumbersome, but we are there if necessary.”

Another EU official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed. “The issue of funds for Ukraine will be resolved one way or another, and Kiev will receive the support of the European Union,” the official said.

Billions are at stake

Last year, Hungary vetoed a similar proposal to give €18 billion in financial aid to Ukraine in 2023.

After months of debate, Budapest finally agreed to the package after winning what it said were concessions from the bloc on aid to Hungary, and hearing that the EU would use a similar solution to push through it anyway.

Asked whether the EU would follow this path again if necessary, European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said this week:

“Last year, we were already discussing Plan B… but we were able to avoid that scenario last year. I hope we can also avoid that scenario this year.”

Orban, who has been in power for more than a decade, is locked in increasingly bitter battles with others in the European Union over a range of issues including democratic standards, foreign policy, immigration and gay rights.

But under EU rules, the strategy of bypassing Hungary cannot be applied to the decision due in December on whether to begin EU accession negotiations with Kiev, the coveted prize for Ukraine in its war against Russia.

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This decision would require the consensus of the 27 EU members, which is not at all certain given Orban’s position on the war. Speaking separately on Friday, Orban said he was opposed to launching membership talks with Kiev.

He also said there was no connection between this and his disagreements over billions of euros in EU funds for Hungary that have been held up over democracy concerns.

EU officials told Reuters last month they were looking to release at least some of that money as the bloc seeks to win Orban’s vote for Ukraine. However, officials insisted that Budapest still needed to meet the necessary conditions.

($1 = 0.9369 euros)

Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska. Editing by Andrew Heavens and Toby Chopra

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