Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is urging Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to unblock 50 billion euros ($55 billion) in EU aid to Ukraine in back-channel talks, Bloomberg reported Jan. 10, citing people familiar with the discussions.
Orban alone opposed the EU's funding package in December, delaying crucial support as Ukraine enters its third year of war. The EU will revisit the four-year funding agreement at an emergency summit on Feb. 1.
According to Bloomberg, Meloni's negotiations with Orban could result in Orban's right-wing Fidesz party joining the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), a pan-European coalition of far-right political parties. The ECR includes Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) party, and the nationalist Sweden Democrats.
The addition of Fidesz would give the ECR party an advantage going into the summer's European elections.
Meloni is also trying to persuade Orban to improve his relationships with President Volodymyr Zelensky, sources told Bloomberg.
Hungary would have to shift its policy on Ukraine's hopes of EU accession as a condition of Fidesz joining the ECR.
Sources told Bloomberg that negotiations have taken place at various levels, but no decisions have been made.
Politico reported on Jan. 9 that Hungary may support the EU's aid package if the funding is subject to annual renewal. The move would allow Budapest to extract new concessions from the EU each year.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Jan. 6 that while she hopes the member states can reach consensus on assisting Ukraine, the Commission is preparing alternative "operational solutions" in the event the proposal fails to win unanimous approval.