Hungarian PM Orbán blocks €50bn EU aid package for Ukraine

Veto comes hours after leaders agreed to open talks with Kyiv on joining the EU after sidestepping Orbán’s opposition

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has blocked a €50bn EU aid package for Ukraine, hours after leaders sidestepped his opposition to agree to open talks with Kyiv on joining the bloc.

Posting on X, Mr Orbán said: “We will come back to the issue next year in the #EUCO after proper preparation.”

The vetoing of aid by Mr Orbán on Thursday at a Brussels summit delivered another blow to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy after he failed this week to persuade US politicians to approve an additional $61 billion (€55 billion), mainly to buy weapons from the United States.

The start of accession talks was a momentous moment and stunning reversal for a country at war that had struggled to find the backing for its membership aspirations and long faced obstinate opposition from Mr Orbán.


Hungary’s leader decided not to veto the accession talks but then blocked the aid package.

“I can inform you that 26 leaders agreed on the (budget negotiation),” European Council president Charles Michel said. “I should be very precise. One leader, Sweden, needs to consult its parliament, which is in line with the usual procedure for this country, and one leader couldn’t agree.”

The decisions required unanimity among the EU’s members.

Mr Michel, who was chairing the Brussels summit, called the start of accession talks “a clear signal of hope for their people and our Continent”. He said leaders would reconvene in January.

Although the process between opening negotiations and Ukraine finally becoming a member could take many years, Mr Zelensky welcomed the agreement as “a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe”.

“History is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom,” he said.

The financial package could not be endorsed after Mr Orbán vetoed both the extra money and a review of the EU budget having warned the summit that forcing a decision on the Ukraine issues could destroy EU unity.

Mr Orbán said that his opposition remained steadfast, but that he decided not to use his veto because the 26 other nations were arguing so strongly in favour. Under EU rules, an abstention does not prevent a decision from being adopted.

On Friday, Mr Orbán said Hungary can stop Ukrainian accession to the EU later.

Speaking on Hungarian state radio this morning, Mr Orbán, said he tried for hours to convince European leaders not to sign off on launching accession negotiations with Kyiv.

Mr Orbán said the leaders had several arguments he had to take into account: “They are 26, and I’m alone. They want to give Ukraine through this decision the encouragement needed to continue the war, and they asked that I don’t obstruct them in this.

“But their decisive argument was that Hungary doesn’t lose anything with this ... If we don’t want Ukraine to be a member of the European Union, then the Hungarian parliament votes it down ... there are about 75 occasions when the Hungarian government can stop this process. And they said that if during the negotiations there is something which hurts Hungary’s interests, I stop it.”

Mr Orbán also reiterated that Hungary did not want to take part in the “bad decision” and that is why he left the room while leaders made the decision to open accession talks. “Later we can stop this process, if needed we pull the handbrake,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “In fairness to prime minister Orbán, he made his case, made it very strongly. He disagrees with this decision and he’s not changing his opinion in that sense, but essentially decided not to use the veto power.

“I respect the fact that he didn’t do that, because it would have put us in a very difficult position as a European Union.”

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo called the opening of membership discussions a black eye for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“It is a very clear message to Moscow. Us Europeans, we don’t let go of Ukraine,” he said, adding he thought Mr Orbán “didn’t use his veto because he realised that it would be indefensible”.

At the same time as Ukraine, the EU leaders also decided to open membership negotiations with Ukraine’s neighbour Moldova.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan welcomed “the EU’s historic decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, a crucial step toward fulfilling their Euro-Atlantic aspirations”. – AP