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Hungary Blocks €50bn EU Aid For Ukraine Following Membership Talks Agreement

Ukraine’s President Zelensky celebrated the EU decision on membership talks as a “victory.”

Hungary has blocked €50 billion ($55 billion; £43 billion) in EU aid for Ukraine just hours after an agreement was reached on starting membership talks. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban announced the veto after Thursday’s talks in Brussels, stating, “Summary of the night shift: veto for the extra money to Ukraine.”

EU leaders have indicated that aid negotiations will resume early next year. Ukraine, heavily reliant on EU and US funding in its ongoing conflict with Russian forces, faces increased challenges due to Hungary’s unexpected blockade.

The decision to block aid was made shortly after EU leaders voted to open membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova, granting candidate status to Georgia. While Hungary, with close ties to Russia, has long opposed Ukraine’s membership, it did not veto the move.

Mr. Orban, after fighting for eight hours against the decision, left the negotiating room briefly, while the other 26 leaders proceeded with the vote. He later explained that Ukraine’s path to EU membership would be a lengthy process, and the Hungarian parliament could still intervene if it chose to do so.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky celebrated the EU decision on membership talks as a “victory.” However, Mr. Orban’s opposition to the aid was met with a response from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who expressed confidence in reaching a deal early next year, stating, “We still have some time; Ukraine is not out of money in the next few weeks.”

At a news briefing, European Council President Charles Michel confirmed that all but one EU leader had agreed on the aid package and broader budget proposals, with Sweden yet to consult its parliament. The matter will be revisited early next year in an effort to achieve unanimity.

Ukraine is also seeking approval for a $61 billion US defence aid package, but disagreements between Democrat and Republican lawmakers are causing delays. Concerns are rising as Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russian forces has slowed down, prompting fears that Russian military might could overpower Ukraine.

Despite the challenges, the EU’s decision to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova has been widely praised, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz affirming their place in the “European family.” President Vladimir Putin, in contrast, mocked Ukraine, claiming that Western support was dwindling.

While Thursday’s decision marks a significant step, talks on EU membership can take years, and Ukraine will need to undertake substantial reforms to meet EU standards in areas such as the rule of law and the economy.

Kiki Garba

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