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Politico: EU is considering stripping Hungary's voting rights if it blocks Ukraine aid

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 26, 2024 12:41 PM 2 min read
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during his annual news conference in Budapest, Hungary, on Dec. 21, 2023. (Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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The EU is weighing the "nuclear option" of revoking Hungary's voting rights if it again vetoes a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) aid package for Ukraine at an upcoming European Council summit next week, Politico reported on Jan. 26, citing unnamed diplomats and officials.

The European Parliament supported a resolution earlier in January to suspend Hungary's voting rights due to the country's "erosion of the rule of law" and obstructive behavior in the face of EU consensus building. The EU's criticism of Hungary increased after it previously blocked the $54 billion Ukraine aid package in December 2023.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is considered close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor 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.

Hungary has so far been able to exercise its obstructionist tactics on Ukraine and other issues that have unanimous support across the EU without triggering major consequences, and has even managed to extract concessions from the bloc in order to gain its vote.

"We are again getting into this game of what does (Orban) want?" one diplomat told Politico. "We should be a bit more forceful."

There are other indications that it may not be necessary to use the "nuclear option," which would be the first time an EU member had its voting rights restricted.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said on Jan. 25 that she was confident Orban would ultimately support the package.

Hungary has previously signaled it would potentially lift the veto on the condition that the aid be reviewed on a yearly basis.

There may be other pathways to securing the aid without Hungary's approval.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said earlier in January that the EU will pass the package with 26 members, implying it was possible to do so without Hungary's consent. She added that she "strongly preferred" having the aid pass with the approval of all 27 member states.

It is unclear how such a move to bypass the need for unanimous support would occur.

The European Commission is working on "operational solutions" in the event the package fails to pass, said von der Leyen, but she did not specify what exactly those alternatives might be.

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