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Hungary has issued a warning that it may obstruct the provision of European Union assistance to Ukraine and reject their bid for membership.
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Hungary has issued a warning that it may obstruct the provision of European Union assistance to Ukraine and reject their bid for membership.

Hungary is using its veto power to prevent Ukraine from receiving $50 billion in aid from Europe and to block Kyiv’s entry into the European Union. This is due to an escalating disagreement between Brussels and Budapest.

On Monday, EU Council President Charles Michel went to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The goal of the meeting was to improve the relationship between the two countries before an important summit on December 14-15. At the summit, EU leaders will make a decision about whether or not to start official discussions with Ukraine about joining the EU. There were no public statements from either Michel or Orban after their meeting on Monday.

Hungary has long been a thorn in the side of the European Union. The dispute over the bloc’s military and economic support for Ukraine comes amid increasingly bitter rhetoric as campaigning gets underway for next June’s European elections.

Anti-EU campaign

Fidesz, led by Prime Minister Orban, has recently targeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen by displaying billboards featuring her and Alex Soros, the son of Hungarian liberal financier George Soros, who is often a target of Fidesz’s campaigns. The posters urge people not to follow their agenda.

During his speech at the Fidesz party congress on November 18, Orban intensified his criticism of the European Union.

“I firmly believe that we must reject the European model of Brussels. This model is not sustainable and has no prospects for the future. I am certain that Europe, as it is currently represented in Brussels, is being dismantled and will eventually lead to its downfall,” stated Orban to his followers, while also reiterating his warning to veto Ukraine’s request for EU membership.

“In the upcoming months, leading up to the European elections, we are expected to encounter significant political challenges… Our responsibility will be to rectify the erroneous commitment to commence negotiations with Ukraine, as Ukraine currently remains significantly distant from the European Union,” he stated.

Blocked funds

The European Union is still holding back approximately $24 billion from the bloc’s post-pandemic recovery fund due to worries about the state of law in Hungary, specifically regarding the impartiality of the courts and the freedom of the media. The EU has expressed ongoing concerns about the decline of democratic values in Hungary.

According to reports, Prime Minister Orban sent a letter to EU Council President Charles Michel last week, in which he stated his intention to impede a $50 billion EU aid package to Kyiv.

Opponents argue that his uncompromising tactics may ultimately prove detrimental.

“According to Peter Kreko, an analyst at the Political Capital think tank in Budapest, Orban is becoming increasingly isolated within the European Union. This has not only symbolic implications, but also economic consequences. The Hungarian economy is currently struggling and the lack of access to EU funds, which have been frozen due to concerns about the country’s adherence to the rule of law, as well as its controversial stance on the Russia-Ukraine issue and criticism of the EU, have played a significant role in exacerbating these economic challenges.”

Ukraine’s aspirations for EU membership

Last week, the EU unfroze $1 billion of funds in an attempt to address Hungary’s objections. It remains uncertain if this will suffice in preventing Orban from using his veto threats at the upcoming EU summit in December.

The Prime Minister of Hungary has stated that discussions cannot continue while the country is at war and has encouraged Kyiv to pursue peace talks with Moscow. Ukraine has declared that negotiations will not take place until Russian troops have left its borders.

According to Olga Tokariuk, an analyst at the London-based Chatham House, Ukrainians lack trust in Russia and therefore view EU and NATO membership as the only means of ensuring security and sustainable peace in Europe.

Experts suggest that Orban may feel more confident following the recent electoral wins of Robert Fico in Slovakia and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. These leaders share similar views and have expressed doubts about the EU’s backing for Ukraine.