The EU Commission approved 900 million euros ($980 million) in advance payments for Hungary from frozen recovery funds, just as Budapest threatens to block Ukraine aid, Reuters reported on Nov. 23.
The funds would come from the bloc's REPowerEU program aimed at helping EU countries recover from the energy crisis following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The total sum of $11.3 billion earmarked for Hungary's post-pandemic recovery – also including the REPowerEU segment – has been frozen by the EU's executive body over fears of democratic backsliding and rule-of-law issues.
The advance payments do not require meeting rule-of-law conditions otherwise attached to EU financial aid, Reuters noted. Nevertheless, the decision must be approved by all EU countries, likely during the coming December talks.
The unblocking of nearly $1 billion comes while Hungary is ramping up its opposition to the bloc's crucial support for Ukraine.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reportedly threatened to block all Ukraine aid and Kyiv's accession to the EU unless European leaders agreed to revise their support strategy.
Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Hungary has repeatedly obstructed EU support for Kyiv, opposed sanctions against Russia, and now threatens to thwart Ukraine's EU aspirations. Orban, who maintains close ties with the Kremlin, has refused to provide military aid to Ukraine and claimed that Kyiv's counteroffensive was destined to fail.
Both Orban and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto have met with high-ranking Russian officials, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, since Feb. 24, 2022. Szijjarto has also traveled to Russia five times since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.
A majority of Hungarians have expressed their disapproval of Orban's meeting with Putin at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Oct. 17.