EU unlocks Hungary funding on eve of Ukraine summit

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The EU released 10.2 billion euros ($11 billion) of funding for Hungary on Wednesday, the eve of a summit on support for Ukraine that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has threatened to derail.

The European Commission insisted Hungary had undertaken measures to improve the judiciary’s independence, therefore meeting the requirements to access the money.

Although the green light had been expected, it quickly sparked outrage, with EU lawmakers accusing the commission of giving in to Hungary’s “blackmail”.

It is, however, far from clear that Brussels’s gesture will avert a dispute between the EU leaders.

The leaders will be in Brussels from Thursday to discuss renewing their support for Ukraine, with a macroeconomic package of 50 billion euros ($54 billion) and a promise of formal membership talks on the table.

Orban has threatened to veto both measures, which would condemn the summit to failure and leave Ukraine — and its neighbour Moldova, also hoping for membership talks — out in the cold almost two years after Russia launched an all-out invasion of Kyiv’s territory.

Hungary insists it has principled objections to Kyiv’s move for membership, arguing that President Volodymyr Zelensky’s wartime administration has not done enough to fight corruption.

Budapest is demanding a “strategic discussion” on ties with Kyiv before any decision.

But many in other EU capitals suspect that Orban is exploiting the summit and the power of his veto on enlargement to blackmail Brussels into resuming Hungary’s suspended transfer payments.

EU officials have denied the latest move was to appease Orban.

Under the right-wing authoritarian nationalist, Hungary stands accused of breaching EU standards of democracy and the rule of law, and tens of billions of euros in funding are blocked.

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