Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban called Friday 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.
The bloc wanted to provide an additional 50 billion euros ($55 billion) to support Kyiv over the next four years, as part of a boost to the bloc’s overall budget, a plan Hungary’s nationalist leader blocked early on Friday in a crunch summit at Brussels.
“It is an extraordinary situation because the other countries want to amend the seven-year running budget, which I vetoed yesterday,” Orban said in an interview with Hungarian state radio on Friday morning.
Most EU leaders wanted this week’s summit to send a sign of solidarity with Ukraine 22 months after Russia launched its invasion.
But any decisions must be unanimous — or at least unopposed — by the 27 member states.
Critics have long accused Orban of holding Kyiv’s support hostage in a bid to force Brussels to release billions of euros of EU funds frozen over a rule of law dispute.
In what some saw as a last-minute concession, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, agreed on Wednesday to unblock 10 billion euros of that cash.
But around 21 billion euros earmarked for Hungary is still out of reach, pending the completion by Budapest of a certain number of reforms.
“I’ve always said that if someone wants to amend the budget law, and they want to for several reasons, 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.
“So we want to be treated fairly, and now there is a good chance that we can assert this,” he added.
Bu Orban was convinced by fellow EU leaders not to block a decision to open talks with Kyiv on joining the bloc.
“Their decisive argument was that Hungary has nothing to lose by doing so, given that the final word on Ukraine’s membership must be given by the national parliaments, 27 of them, including the Hungarian one,” Orban said.
“I didn’t want Hungary to have to take such a bad decision on its conscience […] so I left the room.”
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.