EU settles on €50bn package for Ukraine despite Hungarian resistance

Frustrated leaders lambast Hungarian 'blackmail' ahead of summit breakthrough on funding Kyiv

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. Reuters
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European leaders were quick to clinch a deal on Thursday to provide Ukraine with a new €50 billion ($54 billion) package despite Hungary's possible veto creating last-minute uncertainty.

European Council President Charles Michel told a press conference in Brussels: “We got the 27 heads of state and government to reach a political agreement, which will allow us to mobilise an extra €50 billion as part of the Ukraine facility.

“This decision sends out a very clear message to the Ukrainians and shows our determination to be fully mobilised to support their future, to support their freedom."

Speaking before the meeting, diplomats expressed frustration over what many described as Hungarian “blackmail” over the vote that required unanimity. Hungary has routinely blocked aid support packages to Ukraine until the last minute. Many view this as an attempt to obtain concessions from the bloc.

Some leaders including Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas openly criticised her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban before the meeting and hinted at the unprecedented “nuclear option” of triggering Article 7 – which would strip Hungary of its voting rights.

“Viktor definitely wants to be the centre of attention every time we are here but it shouldn’t be like this,” said Ms Kallas. “I don’t want to use blackmail but I don’t know a better word.”

Ukraine's plight

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the agreement, which he said would strengthen Ukrainian resilience.

“Europe sets the tone for global affairs through its unity,” he wrote on X.

The funds include €33 billion in the form of loans and €17 billion in grants that may include revenue stemming from frozen Russian central bank assets in Europe.

Mr Orban, who has close ties to Moscow, said he accepted the deal after receiving an offer for a control mechanism that guarantees reasonable use of the money.

The European Council is expected to hold a debate each year funding Ukraine with a view to providing guidance, the council said. If needed, the European Commission will propose a review in two years.

A tough stance from the EU’s 26 other leaders is what helped convince Mr Orban, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said after the meeting.

"We have been working ... towards a clear position, which can be briefly described as follows: we want to support Ukraine in its war effort against Russia, there will be 27 of us, the entire community, and no one will pay anyone any reward for it," Mr Tusk said.

"No one will look for rotten compromises."

Updated: February 01, 2024, 4:32 PM