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Orban says he is willing to compromise on $54 billion Ukraine aid package

by Nate Ostiller January 30, 2024 2:01 PM 3 min read
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives at the European Council summit in Brussels on Dec. 14, 2023. (Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban begrudgingly signaled his willingness to drop his opposition to a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package to Ukraine in an interview with the French magazine Le Point published on Jan. 30.

The Hungarian prime minister blocked the decision on the EU’s financial assistance for Kyiv last December. EU leaders will resume talks about aid for Ukraine on Feb. 1 during a special summit of the European Council.

Orban's opposition to the package angered many in the EU, leading some parliamentarians to move forward with a proposal to strip Hungary of its voting rights. The European Parliament supported the so-called "nuclear option" earlier in January over Hungary's obstructionist behavior on Ukraine aid and general issues with the country's degraded rule of law.

At the same time, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is considered close to Orban, said he would fight against any attempts to restrict Hungary's EU rights. Bratislava's opposition could prevent a unanimous decision on the move.

Orban said in the Le Point interview that Hungary had sent a compromise offer. The counter-proposal, which Orban considered to be the result of EU "blackmail," would require the aid package to be reviewed on a yearly basis.

The original proposal that Orban blocked entailed the distribution of the funds over a four-year period, which would help Ukraine and its allies make more long-term plans.  

He then referred to leaked EU documents obtained by the Financial Times (FT) about an alleged plan to shut off EU funding for Hungary in case the aid package was vetoed.

Senior EU leaders later denied that such a plan was in the works.

Orban said the proposal was evidence of the supposed "ideological war" that Brussels has been "waging" on Hungary for the past few years.

The Hungarian prime minister said he understood that Ukraine desperately needs funding, but said it would be un-democratic if such a long-term funding package were implemented ahead of elections scheduled to occur across Europe later in 2024.

Orban also praised former U.S. President Donald Trump, a close ally.

"I don't see anyone other than him, neither in Europe nor in America, who is a leader strong enough to stop the war. Peace has a name, that of Donald Trump," Orban said.

Trump has previously implied he would cut support to Ukraine if elected and said his primary focus would be to secure an immediate ceasefire with Russia within 24 hours, without specifying what terms the proposed peace deal would be on.

He concluded by reiterating concerns about the economic impact that Ukraine joining the EU could have on the rest of the bloc, complaining that countries such as France in Western Europe do not see the danger yet because they are too far away.

"Sooner or later the impact of the Ukrainian economy on the European Union will reach France. And you will suffer just like us," he said.

Hungary continues to undermine Western aid efforts and sanctions against Russia. Budapest has maintained warm relations with Moscow amid the all-out war, and Hungarian top officials have visited Russia repeatedly since February 2022.

Orban met Russian President Vladimir Putin in October 2023 in Beijing, which was widely condemned, including by a majority of Hungarians.

Opinion: Orban is plain wrong on Ukraine
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban sought to blackball Ukraine’s bid to formally start EU accession talks last month, arguing that Ukraine was simply not ready. Ultimately, the other 26 EU member states decided to ignore Orban’s protestations and formally agreed to the start of accession talks wi…
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