EU to ‘circumvent’ Hungary to unblock military aid for Ukraine

Josep Borrell says €1.4 billion in profit from frozen Russian assets earmarked for Ukraine cannot get ‘stuck’

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell arrives for a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

The European Union plans to use a loophole to get around Hungary blocking military aid for Ukraine, which is expected to free up €1.4 billion earmarked to help the country in its war with Russia.

The plan, discussed by foreign affairs ministers on Monday, will see the first tranche of funding from the profits of frozen Russian assets held in Europe used to supply military aid to Ukraine. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has consistently delayed or blocked the EU sending funds and aid to Ukraine, leading to considerable tension between Budapest and Brussels.

In a new development, the EU has said its legal advice indicates as Hungary abstained on the initial vote agreeing to funnel profits from frozen Russian assets to Ukraine, it cannot veto the money being released at a later stage, according to several sources. Foreign affairs ministers from the 27 EU countries met in Luxembourg, where they were briefed on the plan to work around Hungary’s opposition to EU military aid to Ukraine.

Speaking after the meeting, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said the plan would allow the union to “circumvent” Hungary’s opposition. Some €1.4 billion in funds from the profits of the frozen assets would be available next month, with a further €1 billion expected by the end of the year, he said.


The funding would be put towards military support, such as boosting Ukraine’s air defence capacity, in the “swiftest possible manner”, he said. Earlier Mr Borrell had said the funding could not be allowed to “get stuck” and there was a need “to avoid any kind of blockage”.

A spokesman for Hungary said its minister for foreign affairs, Peter Szijjarto, had stated the EU plan to quickly release the military aid for Ukraine was “crossing red lines”.

The funding is drawn from the profits of Russian assets that were frozen in the EU, mainly in Belgium, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. Last month EU countries agreed to use the profits to fund weapons and other aid for Ukraine, following months of negotiations about how the assets could be leveraged to support Ukraine in the war.

The assistance is separate to a plan agreed by G7 states earlier this month, to use the frozen assets to provide Ukraine with a $50 billion (€46 billion) loan for weapons and other supplies. It is expected that work on raising those loans, which is complex, will take a number of months to iron out.

A further €6 billion in EU funding to support Ukraine is being held up by Hungary, with the 27 national leaders expected to discuss those blocked funds during a summit later this week, Mr Borrell said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times