Ukraine warns of ‘devastating’ consequences if Hungary wields veto on key EU decisions

Budapest threatens to block membership decision and financial support to Kyiv

Ukraine has warned of “devastating” consequences if Hungary vetoes key decisions due this week by the European Union on support for the country and its path towards membership as it battles to hold back Russia’s invasion.

The Hungarian government has threatened to block key decisions at the final summit of EU leaders this week, going against a majority of countries that wish to approve opening accession talks with Kyiv.

“I cannot imagine, I don’t even want to talk about the devastating consequences that will occur shall the council fail to make to make this decision,” Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said on arrival to a meeting of EU counterparts in Brussels.

“What is at stake in today’s discussions? It’s not even the membership of specific countries. It’s the future of the European Union as a force, not just as a union, but as a force, as a source of strength in Europe and beyond.”


EU leaders are set to discuss emergency funding designed to keep Ukraine running as a state as it fights of Russia’s invasion, the latest tranche of military support for the country, as well as whether to open accession negotiations in the next step in its long-hoped-for membership process.

In letters sent in advance of the summit, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban asked for Ukraine’s membership and €50 billion in emergency funding for Kyiv to be taken off the agenda of the EU leaders’ meeting, two items that both require unanimous agreement of leaders to be approved.

Budapest has frequently wielded its veto on a range of topics as a way to get concessions, but there are concerns that this time there seems to be nothing the EU can offer to make Mr Orban change his mind.

“A majority of European politicians want to make such important decisions which are entirely unprepared and lack strategic agreement on the future of Europe,” Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on Facebook in advance of the meeting.

“We will not give in to any pressure ... irrespective of where that is coming from, from whom, and what kind of blackmail it is or promise.”

Mr Kuleba insisted that Ukraine had “done its homework”, passing three out of four laws requested by the European Commission, and had also changed its legislation on education and language regarding its Hungarian minority, a prior demand of Budapest.

“The game should be played fairly. If we are told to do something, and we do that, that must be registered as a result, and serve as the basis for making further decisions,” he told reporters.

As a bitter winter takes hold in Ukraine, Russia has stepped up missile and drone attacks, damaging civilian infrastructure and raising concerns of worsening humanitarian conditions in the country.

EU officials have suggested there may be some workarounds to get financial support to Ukraine even if Hungary maintains its veto. But advancing its membership hopes appears almost impossible without unanimous support.

“I think it’s a clash of ideologies,” Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters.

“Of those who want Europe to be strong, and those who don’t want European Union at all.”

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Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times