EU leaders agree deal with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban to unblock €50bn in Ukraine aid

Hungarian leader had been sole objector among bloc principals over disbursements to Kyiv

European Union leaders unanimously agreed a €50 billion support package for Ukraine at a summit in Brussels after persuading Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban to drop his veto.

The one-day summit was called to try to push the aid for Kyiv over the line after Mr Orban blocked it as the sole holdout in December. And in the past week, Hungary had come under increasing pressure to give way.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the gathered 27 leaders by video link to express his thanks.

“I’m grateful for your decision,” he told them, saying that the EU had proved its credibility and that Ukraine now had the reliable long-term support it needed to prevail against Russia’s invasion.


“This is a clear signal that Ukraine will withstand, and Europe will withstand. It is also really important that this decision was taken unanimously by all of you, all 27 member states. It is yet another clear sign of your strong unity and support of Ukraine.”

In a tweet, European Council president Charles Michel — who chairs the meetings of the council, the EU’s highest decision-making body — said the deal “locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding” and showed the EU taking “leadership and responsibility in support for Ukraine”.

The decision is a boost for Ukraine as it fears flagging support from the United States, where aid has been held up by political division in Washington and there are concerns that a potential new Republican administration following November’s election could turn away from backing Kyiv.

Mr Orban relented after leaders met in small groups in a series of discussions before the summit proper began, culminating in a gathering in which he faced pressure from French president Emmanuel Macron, Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, German chancellor Olaf Scholz as well as European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Mr Michel.

To clinch the agreement, EU leaders agreed to introduce annual reporting on how the funding for Ukraine is being implemented and to have a debate among leaders about it. In addition, the funding can be reviewed in two years.

Mr Orban, who has an ambiguous policy towards neighbouring Ukraine and has maintained relations with Russian president Vladimir Putin during the war, was not successful in his demand to have an annual veto on financial disbursements.

Officials said that Mr Orban had “folded” and there was said to be some annoyance among leaders that they had been forced to return to Brussels for a summit that was almost over before it began.

Officials downplayed the significance of weekend reports that the EU was prepared to “sabotage” Hungary’s economy if Mr Orban continued to block assistance to Ukraine. Still, there was a strong sense in Brussels that patience was running out.

Entering the summit on Thursday morning, several EU leaders — including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar —were critical of Mr Orban, with some accusing him of abusing the EU’s requirement for unanimity on such decisions.

“Viktor definitely wants to be the centre of attention every time we are here,” said Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas.

Mr Varadkar said that EU leaders needed to leave the summit with a decision and warned that Mr Putin would be happy with a continued stalemate.

An EU diplomat said that negotiations would begin on Monday to get the legalities of the aid “approved as soon as possible”.

Leaders then turned to discuss military support for Ukraine, the situation in the Middle East, and the farmers’ protests that caused widespread disruption in Brussels as the council met.

Hungary, whose access to significant EU funding has been blocked over rule-of-law concerns, had been complicating efforts to provide military support to Kyiv just as the EU is well short of its pledge to provide Ukraine with one million rounds of artillery ammunition by March.

Ukraine is running short of weapons as Russia’s invasion heads into a third year. Reports from the front lines suggest Ukraine is struggling to hold Russian forces back. At the same time, an ugly dispute has broken out between Mr Zelenskiy, and his commander-in-chief, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi — heightening the sense of crisis in Kyiv.

Mr Zelenskiy, said he is grateful to EU leaders for their deal on long-term financial assistance but also urged them to step up on military aid.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times