BUDAPEST (Agencies): In a surprising move, Hungary has vetoed €50 billion ($55 billion; £43 billion) in EU aid earmarked for Ukraine, shortly after an agreement was reached to initiate membership talks. Following Thursday’s talks in Brussels, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban confirmed the veto, stating, “Summary of the nightshift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine.”

This decision was made even as EU leaders approved membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova and granted candidate status to Georgia. Hungary, known for its close ties with Russia, has consistently opposed Ukraine’s EU membership but did not block that particular move.

Orban’s announcement came after he briefly left the negotiating room, a move described as pre-arranged and constructive, while the remaining 26 leaders proceeded with the vote. Despite Hungary’s opposition, EU leaders declared unanimity in their decision to open membership talks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the EU’s decision as a “victory.”

The aid package blocking raises concerns as Ukraine heavily relies on EU and US funding in its ongoing struggle against Russian occupying forces. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed confidence in reaching a deal early next year, emphasizing that Ukraine has sufficient funds for the immediate future.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, confirmed at a late-night briefing that all but one EU leader had agreed on the aid package and broader budget proposals, with Sweden still consulting its parliament. Michel stated that the matter would be revisited early next year in an attempt to achieve unanimity.

Meanwhile, Ukraine faces additional challenges in securing approval for a $61 billion US defense aid package, with disagreements among Democrat and Republican lawmakers causing delays. The urgency is underscored by fears that Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces may be outgunned, especially with the onset of winter. President Zelensky’s wife recently warned of Ukrainians being in “mortal danger” if Western countries fail to continue their financial support.

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