Orban poised for EU showdown over Ukraine funding 

Orban poised for EU showdown over Ukraine funding 

Semi-democratic Hungary has blocked around €18 billion in European Union funding to Ukraine in an apparent attempt to pressure Brussels to release frozen EU funds for Budapest.

The European Commission last week said the bloc would not hand over around €13 billion in EU funding – more than 8 per cent of Hungary’s annual GDP –  and €5 billion in Covid recovery funds due to concerns over corruption, democratic standards and the targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Hungary’s populist prime minister Viktor Orban is at odds with the EU over almost every key decision, including sanctions against Russia, refusing migrant quotas and EU demands for LGBT rights.

Hungary’s finance minister Mihály Varga said: “Hungary considers it a dangerous precedent that the payment of EU funds to Hungary is linked to other, completely unrelated issues.”

Inflation-ravaged Hungary depends on EU funding and Ukraine needs to address its rapidly increasing state deficit as Kyiv funds its war against the Russian invasion. 

Orban, 59, is a long-term Putin ally and blames EU sanctions on Russia for the invasion. He recently signed a new gas deal with Russia, in defiance of European Union sanctions.

Hungary this week blocked more funding for Ukraine and a bill to introduce a minimum EU corporate tax rate at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels. 

Varga denied using Hungary’s veto because the proposals were not put to a ministerial vote.

He told the media: “All such claims are fake news. Contrary to erroneous reports in the press today, the €18 billion aid for Ukraine was not on the agenda.”

The scene is set for a showdown as leaders gather at next week’s European Council summit with Orban refusing to budge until EU funding arrives.

During a leaders’ summit in the summer of last year, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Orban that “Hungary has no business being in the EU anymore”.

“The long-term aim is to bring Hungary to its knees on this issue,” Rutte said, which was taken in Budapest as a declaration of a culture war.

If the Covid funding is not approved by December 19, Hungary could lose access to 70 per cent of the investment.

Terry Reintke, a German Green MEP, said: “The fact that Orban is blocking financial assistance to Ukraine speaks volumes about the side that he’s on. The EU cannot continue to try and appease an outright autocrat like Viktor Orban.”


Viktor Orban with his ally Vladimir Putin. Picture credit: Kremlin


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