Hungary's call for review of EU policy on Ukraine sets stage for weeks of wrangling
"We need a period of reflection and a strategic discussion on the policy of the European Union towards Ukraine," Hungary's European affairs minister, Janos Boka, said as he arrived for talks with his EU peers to prepare a Dec.14-15 summit of the bloc's leaders. Until such discussion, Budapest would not support any EU decisions to advance Ukraine's accession process or further aid for Kyiv, he said.
Hungary on Wednesday sought a review of the European Union's policy towards Ukraine, disagreeing with Germany, Lithuania, Finland and Ireland that backed bringing Kyiv closer to the bloc swiftly and granting it more aid amidst a Russian invasion.
Hungary is the main stumbling block to a decision by EU leaders next month to start formal membership talks with Ukraine once it meets all conditions, and assign 50 billion euros ($54 bln) in aid for Kyiv from the bloc's budget through 2027. Those decisions require unanimity of the 27 countries in the bloc, which has supported Ukraine - a former Soviet republic that wants to integrate with the West - since Russia invaded in February 2022.
But Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban - who touts his ties with Moscow - has since said the bloc's strategy of sending money and military aid to Ukraine has failed, and that he opposed starting membership negotiations with Kyiv. "We need a period of reflection and a strategic discussion on the policy of the European Union towards Ukraine," Hungary's European affairs minister, Janos Boka, said as he arrived for talks with his EU peers to prepare a Dec.14-15 summit of the bloc's leaders.
Until such discussion, Budapest would not support any EU decisions to advance Ukraine's accession process or further aid for Kyiv, he said. Orban has complained that Ukraine had curbed the rights of Hungarian minority. He is also at odds with the EU over the bloc freezing of Hungary's access to funds because of concerns about the country's democratic backsliding during his rule.
DOWN TO THE WIRE EU officials have said there could be a workaround to any Hungarian veto on financial aid to Kyiv. That would not apply, however, to inviting Ukraine to accession negotiations, something backed by most other EU states.
"It is important we reach an agreement on the financial framework in December to make sure we can give Ukraine the support," German EU minister, Anna Luhrmann, said in comments echoed by her Irish colleague. Finland's Anders Adlercreutz said it was a security matter to support Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova - countries sandwiched between the EU and Russia, and willing to join the bloc one day.
"It is of outmost importance that every European country understands that we need to help Ukraine," he said. Lithuania's Jovita Neliupsiene said the December EU summit must take decisions related to advancing the bloc's eventual enlargement, or damage its own credibility.
In the past, Hungary has temporarily blocked similar decisions on aid to Ukraine, as well as demanded a "strategic" discussion over EU sanctions against Russia for waging the war. In some cases, Orban had eventually aligned himself with the rest of the bloc but not without negotiations going down to the wire over concessions he sought for Hungary.
A senior EU official voiced concern whether a December decision on EU membership talks with Ukraine was possible, given that consensus was needed: "I don't see a way out at the moment."($1 = 0.9216 euros)
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