Orban blocks EU aid for Ukraine after membership talks agreed

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Dec. 15 blocked 50 billion euros ($55 billion) in EU aid for Ukraine, after leaders side-stepped his opposition to agree to open talks with Kiev on joining the bloc.

A crunch summit in Brussels broke up after a day of wrangling as the Hungarian authoritarian leader refused to greenlight funding to help prop up Ukraine’s government over the next four years.

Orban called for unblocking all of the still-frozen funds from the European Union for his country, before considering lifting his veto on further aid to Ukraine

“This is a great opportunity for Hungary to make it clear that it should get what it deserves. Not half, then a quarter, but it must get the whole thing,” Orban said in an interview with Hungarian state radio.

“So we want to be treated fairly, and now there is a good chance that we can assert this,” he added.

The wrangling injected a bitter note over the summit, a day after the leaders, minus Hungary, made the historic decision to open talks with Ukraine on it one day joining the bloc.

With the issue of grants and loans to Ukraine blocked by Hungary, the 26 other EU leaders have decided to hold a fresh meeting early next year to try to thrash out an agreement.

The blockage from Orban dealt a blow to Kiev and its backers only hours after they had celebrated the door opening to accession talks.

Kiev is urgently trying to change the narrative that backing from its Western allies is waning as doubts swirl over support from the United States.

Orban agreed to step out of the negotiating room to allow the other EU leaders to take the consensus decision without him.

But on social media he railed against the “completely senseless, irrational and wrong decision.”

The other EU leaders hailed the move, which also included agreeing to launch accession talks with Moldova, as a crucial moment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who did not attend the knife-edge summit, called the decision “a victory that motivates, inspires, and strengthens.”

Along with the nod to Ukraine, the EU leaders also agreed to open membership talks with Moldova. Moldovan President Maia Sandu said her country had turned “a new page today.”

The agreement to open membership negotiations with Kiev does not mean that Ukraine will be joining the EU any time soon.

Before the talks can be launched, EU states must agree on a negotiating framework, giving Orban ample opportunity to stall the process again.

According to Orban, there will be about 75 occasions when his government can halt Ukraine’s ascension process, vowing to “pull the handbrake” before Hungarians pay for any consequences.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council and host of the EU summit, said on Dec. 15 that leaders would return to the issue of the aid for Ukraine “early next year.”

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