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Media: EU unlikely to reach decision on Russian assets profits during summit

by Martin Fornusek March 21, 2024 11:37 AM 3 min read
The national flag of Ukraine and the flag of the EU are flying in the wind on April 24, 2023, in Berlin. (Monika Skolimowska/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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EU leaders are unlikely to reach an agreement on confiscating profits from Russian assets during their summit starting on March 21, namely because Hungary is against using them to boost Ukraine's military capabilities, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported, citing an unnamed senior European diplomat.

The European Commission has proposed to use 90% of the profits to purchase weapons for Kyiv and allocate the remaining 10% to the EU budget to support Ukraine's defense industry. The proposed measure would allocate around 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) to Ukraine per year.

Ukraine's Western partners and other allies froze around $300 billion in Russian assets at the start of the full-scale invasion in 2022, with roughly two-thirds held at the Belgium-based financial services company Euroclear.

The decision must be approved unanimously by EU leaders, who gather for a two-day summit in Brussels between March 21 and 22. The meeting, which will be addressed by President Volodymyr Zelensky via video conference, should tackle a number of issues, but Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda.

DW's source said that Hungary opposes using the funds for military purposes, insisting it goes "towards anything but weapons for Ukrainians." Budapest has repeatedly obstructed military aid for Kyiv and maintained warm relations with Moscow even amid the ongoing full-scale invasion.

While earlier propositions on how to dispose of the funds included supporting Ukraine's reconstruction, "there is a common understanding among most EU member states" that Kyiv crucially needs defense support, DW said, citing the diplomat.

European aid is ever more vital now as assistance from the U.S., a key military donor, has been effectively blocked for months due to disputes in Congress.

Reuters writes that funneling the money to weapons purchases may potentially irk other EU members who maintain a military non-alignment policy, such as Malta, Austria, and Ireland. Even if a final decision is not reached, leaders should indicate how to move forward with the proposal, Reuters said.

The EU is also unlikely to approve a negotiating framework for Ukraine's accession to the bloc, DW's source said. After member states agreed to launch the membership negotiations last December, the EU Commission presented a draft framework for the process on March 12.

"There are member countries that are against opening negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova under the Belgian presidency of the EU," the diplomat told DW without specifying the members. Belgium's presidency over the EU Council concludes on June 30, when it will pass the role to Hungary for another six months.

European Commission delivers $4.8 billion to Ukraine in first tranche of macro-financial assistance
“Today we also made the first payment of 4.5 billion euros under the Ukraine Facility, our 50 billion euro ($54 billion) package to support the recovery, reconstruction and modernization of Ukraine,” said Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat.

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