Hungary ends row with EU over aid

2024-02-02 09:59:15China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

The leaders of the European Union's 27 member nations unanimously agreed at a summit in the Belgian capital Brussels on Thursday to send financial aid to Ukraine, ending a row that had exploded between the bloc and member nation Hungary.

The dispute, which flared over the EU's support for candidate member nation Ukraine, centered on a proposed 50 billion euro ($55 billion) financial aid package for the country, for the years 2024 to 2027.

The package, which was supported by 26 of the bloc's 27 member nations at the previous summit in December, was proposed in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which started almost two years ago.

But, with unanimity needed from the EU's 27 member nations, the funding was blocked by Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban in December.

Several critics linked his opposition to the EU's earlier decision to withhold 20 billion euros of funding it had promised his country, money that was not delivered because of what the bloc said were its concerns about Hungary's human rights situation and alleged corruption.

Ahead of Thursday's summit, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the bloc had run out of patience and needed to find a way to send financial aid to Ukraine "with or without Orban".

But, with the standoff between Orban and the rest of the EU threatening to become entrenched, European Council President Charles Michel announced on Thursday morning that the two sides had reached an agreement.

"We have a deal," he wrote on social media site X, saying the agreement "locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine".

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, wrote on X that the agreement was "a good day for Europe".

Earlier, Tusk had said it was time for the bloc to put pressure on Orban to support the aid package for Ukraine. "We need to play hard and play fair, but there is no room for compromise," he was quoted by Reuters as saying as he arrived for the summit. "There is no middle way; either you are on the Ukrainian side or on the Russian side."

Reuters said the deal between Orban and the other 26 EU nations calls for the financial aid package for Ukraine to be reviewed again in two years' time, if needed.

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