February 9, 2023

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Once again, Viktor Orban, Putin’s longtime ally in the European Union, has exacerbated Brussels

Once again, Viktor Orban, Putin's longtime ally in the European Union, has exacerbated Brussels

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Thierry Mons | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Hungary is banning new financial support for Ukraine as the country tries to free its own money from the European Union, with nationalist leader Viktor Orban once again flapping feathers in the heart of Brussels.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, in November proposed an 18 billion euro ($18.9 billion) package for the war-torn country. The money is supposed to be disbursed regularly throughout 2023. But Hungary was the only one of the 27 EU countries to veto the plan.

Hungarian Prime Minister Orban, often seen as a disaster of EU politics with warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, took to Twitter on Tuesday. He said, “Today’s news was about Hungary vetoing financial aid to Ukraine. This is fake news. Hungary is ready to provide financial assistance to Ukraine, on a bilateral basis. No veto, no blackmail.”

But Brussels does not agree. Some EU officials believe the Budapest vote was an attempt to force EU funding. A European official close to the ministers’ talks, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, told CNBC: “They [Hungary] will deny it, [but] They want to create leverage and take Melvin hostage.”

On top of the extra funding for Ukraine, Hungary is also blocking approval of new tax rules across the EU. It comes at a time when 7.5 billion euros earmarked for Hungary has been frozen and another 5.8 billion euros put on hold until it takes action to address concerns about the independence of the judiciary. Without progress on these reforms before the end of this year, Hungary could lose out on a significant portion of the latest cash.

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Hungary bans [money to Ukraine] Without reasons, a second EU official, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told CNBC. [countries] to be useful.”

The other 26 EU countries are trying to bypass Hungary’s opposition and send additional funding to Ukraine anyway. “We are doing our best to ensure that the funds are disbursed at the beginning of January, our maximum, whether this is Plan A or Plan B at any cost, we have to do it,” Czech Finance Minister Zbenik Stanjora said at a press conference. Tuesday.

Details are still being worked out, but tensions over European funds highlight the often difficult relationship between Hungary and the rest of the EU. Hungary has had a contentious relationship with Russia over the years. Before the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine, Orban told a joint news conference with Putin how closely they had worked together over the past 13 years.

Budapest bought vaccines from Russia during the Covid-19 pandemic and completed energy and trade deals with Moscow during those years.

But Orban supported European sanctions against Moscow in the aftermath of the Ukrainian invasion. He also challenged some decisions related to the divestment of Russian fossil fuels. Indeed, Hungary brokered new gas deals with Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, in August.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in November that he had just received €2.5 billion from the European Union. “A strong contribution to stabilizing Ukraine on the eve of a difficult winter,” he said, adding that he was “now awaiting approval of 18 billion euros” for 2023.

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