EU ministers clash with Hungary over blocked aid for Ukraine

Fresh tensions as Budapest holds up several billion euro of EU aid for Ukrainian military

EU foreign ministers clashed with Hungary over its continued blocking of billions of euro earmarked to support Ukraine militarily in its war with Russia during a “heated” meeting on Monday.

Viktor Orban’s government is holding up significant amounts of EU aid getting to Ukraine, leading to fresh tensions over Hungary’s use of veto powers in Brussels.

Speaking at a press conference, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he was concerned about the impact of the delays. Mr Borrell said there was about €5 billion in funding set aside to support Ukraine in the war that was being held up by one member state. Release of the funding requires sign-off from all 27 EU countries.

The EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, had had a “heated discussion” about the blocked aid, he said. Mr Borrell said he understood member states could have concerns about policies, but the “blockage” of EU decisions had to be “proportionate to the issue at stake”. The Spanish politician said it had already been agreed that the contribution of Hungary to the fund would not be used for any kind of military purpose in Ukraine.

READ MORE

In a post on Facebook during the meeting, Peter Szijjarto, Hungary’s foreign minister, said Hungary and Slovakia were “two sane voices” around the EU meeting table during a time of war-mad “psychosis”.

One diplomatic source said there was growing frustration at the latest instance of Hungary holding up EU support for Ukraine. Mr Orban previously delayed a €50 billion support package late last year, before being convinced to drop his opposition during a special summit of EU leaders in February.

Speaking in advance of the meeting on Monday, Belgium’s foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib, was critical of Hungary’s use of its veto powers. “We cannot accept that a single country, which also signed up to this amount a few months ago ... is now blocking this crucial aid for Ukraine,” she said.

Earlier this month the EU reached agreement to seize profits from Russia’s frozen assets to fund Ukraine’s war effort. The deal to funnel an estimated €4.4 billion in windfall profits from immobilised assets to help Kyiv was thrashed out over several weeks of negotiations. Mr Borrell said he was concerned that this tranche of funding would now also be held up.

Separately, foreign ministers agreed to move ahead with a further round of sanctions against Russia, seen as a response by the EU to the death of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny in an Arctic penal colony in February.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times