EU considers unlocking funds for Hungary amid Ukraine aid negotiations
The EU is contemplating unfreezing funds for Hungary due to concerns about the rule of law
Reuters reported the information.
This move is aimed at gaining Budapest's approval for aid to Ukraine and initiating membership talks for Kyiv. Hungary's closer ties with Russia make it a potential opponent to the decision on Kyiv's accession talks in December.
Additionally, the EU is seeking member states' contributions to support more aid to Ukraine, a decision expected later this year. Releasing the frozen funds is seen as crucial to sway Hungary's vote, although a deal is not certain, and it depends on Prime Minister Viktor Orban's response.
"I can't imagine Hungary agreeing without there first being a solution to the blocked funds," a senior UN official told Reuters.
Hungary urgently needs the funds, which could incentivize reforms, but the Commission also expects Budapest to lift its vetoes on various issues in return.
"Hungary needs the money urgently, which is an incentive for reform. The Commission needs Hungary to lift its vetoes on a number of issues in return. But I don't think the Commission will or can move without any movement on reforms from Budapest," said an EU diplomat.
EU’s dilemma in seeking agreement with Hungary
Hungary's recent legislation aimed at enhancing judicial independence is bringing the EU closer to unfreezing a substantial EUR 22 billion in economic development aid, as per EU officials. Hungary's Minister of EU Affairs, speaking in Budapest, is hopeful for an agreement with the EU regarding the frozen funds by year-end.
This situation poses a dilemma for the EU, as it must balance its commitment to upholding democratic standards within its member states with its support for Ukraine in resisting Russia's invasion and pursuing Western integration. For Ukraine, EU membership is a crucial national objective, and it applied for membership soon after Russia's invasion in February of the previous year.
Before the December EU leaders' vote, the Commission will assess Ukraine's progress in meeting the prerequisites for commencing negotiations.
Prime Minister Orban has stressed that addressing "tough issues" is a prerequisite before the EU can initiate membership negotiations with Ukraine. He emphasized that this process, if it proceeds, would take years for Kyiv to become an EU member.
During a recent speech in the Hungarian parliament, Orban made a clear distinction between supporting Ukraine and releasing EU funds. He stated, "Brussels... is expecting us to agree to an amendment to the European Union budget that requires unanimity. They are asking us... to give even more money to Ukraine."
Orban further argued that "Brussels should give us the money that is due to Hungarians," asserting that doing so would significantly improve the state of public finances and ultimately balance the budget.