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Orbán aide: Hungary could lift Ukraine funds veto if EU unblocks all frozen cash

Orbán aide: Hungary could lift Ukraine funds veto if EU unblocks all frozen cash

by host

Hungary has issued its ransom demand to Brussels.

Budapest is ready to retract its veto on a new package of EU aid to Ukraine if Brussels agrees to unblock all the funds that have been frozen by the bloc over concerns about the rule of law in the country, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s political director said.

European leaders are set to make historic decisions at a summit later this week on opening accession talks with Ukraine and delivering a €50 billion, four-year aid package which Kyiv crucially needs to support its flailing war economy against Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s aggression — but first, they need to overcome Hungary’s objections on both topics.

“Hungary’s EU funding and Ukraine’s financing are two separate issues,” Balazs Orbán told Bloomberg in an interview published late Tuesday.

“But if the EU insists that Ukraine’s financing should come from an amended EU budget, then the two issues become linked,” added the adviser, who is not related to the Hungarian prime minister.

The comments from the Hungarian leader’s aide come as the European Commission is set to unblock €10 billion of EU funds as a reward for judicial reforms Budapest has implemented to address Brussels’ concerns about the independence of its judiciary.

But the rest of the blocked funds — about €11.7 billion — are expected to remain frozen due to issues related to the protection of human rights, the awarding of public contracts, and the state of academic freedoms in the country.

In parallel, Budapest is also waiting to access €10.4 billion in grants and cheap loans from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, which should also remain blocked until Hungary implements a series of anti-corruption reforms.

Yet the prime minister’s aide said Budapest would lift its veto only if Brussels handed over all the frozen cash, which would amount to about €30 billion.

The Commission’s decision could come as early as Wednesday — right before European leaders are set to discuss the new aid package to Kyiv as well as the opening of EU accession negotiations for Ukraine, two proposals that PM Orbán has fiercely opposed.

The prime minister’s adviser said that Ukraine’s EU membership remained a “red line” for Budapest, and said Kyiv should instead be offered a strategic partnership with the bloc as it had not yet fulfilled the criteria to open accession talks.

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