Home » The EU overcomes Orbán’s veto and will offer Ukraine a financial lifeline of 50 billion euros | International

The EU overcomes Orbán’s veto and will offer Ukraine a financial lifeline of 50 billion euros | International

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The EU overcomes Orbán’s veto and will offer Ukraine a financial lifeline of 50 billion euros |  International

Hungarian Viktor Orbán, the EU’s most fractious partner, has given in again. The Twenty-Seven gave the green light this Thursday in Brussels to launch Ukraine a financial lifeline of 50 billion euros for four years within a broader package of the multiannual financial framework. The objective is to ensure that the country invaded by Russia remains afloat and can resist the Kremlin’s aggression. The ultra-conservative Orbán has lifted the veto of the package that he blocked in December. In return, the EU has made two minimum concessions to Budapest: that the aid be debated every year, but without the ability to veto it, and the option for the European Council to unanimously demand a review of that support in two years, according to the summit declaration. This is a purely symbolic emergency brake.

The solution, however, has satisfied the Hungarian, who has been quick to sell the pact at home as a victory. “Mission accomplished,” Orbán launched on social media, where he made his own interpretation of what was signed and assured that none of the European funds that were supposed to go to Hungary—something that was never planned—will go to Ukraine and that this brake emergency gives you some kind of control.

The long-awaited EU agreement comes when Ukraine faces an extremely delicate situation on the ground due to a lack of ammunition, when the war is almost two years old and Russia’s large-scale attacks on cities with missiles have increased. “This 50 billion package ensures firm, predictable and long-term financing for Ukraine,” said the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, at a press conference. “It is a clear message to Russia that we will not be intimidated. And to the US and other allies that the EU will maintain its support for Ukraine,” he added. “This is a good day for Europe, which has become stronger,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

For Ukraine, receiving aid is crucial. If not, it could be forced to leave tens of thousands of civil servants without salaries and cut social benefits to thousands of people.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who spoke before European leaders by videoconference, expressed his gratitude and satisfaction with the agreement. “This is a clear sign that Ukraine will persevere and that Europe will persevere,” he said on his Telegram channel. EU support will “strengthen long-term economic and financial stability in Ukraine”, he said. “It is no less important than military assistance and the pressure of sanctions on Russia,” he stressed. kyiv could receive a first part of the funds in March. First, the most technical parts must be completed and the agreement on the review of the multiannual financial framework must go through the European Parliament.

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The pressure on Orbán, more alone than ever in his policy of pressuring the EU, has been enormous, sources in Brussels acknowledge. “We do not have the so-called ‘fatigue over Ukraine’, there is fatigue over Viktor Orbán in Brussels,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk summarized before the agreement was announced, referring to the atmosphere of a summit crucial for the unity of the community club. Tusk arrived from Poland, a country that until the end of last year was part, with Hungary and its prime minister, of the select club of wayward populist partners of the EU.

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Orbán’s loneliness

That loneliness and great pressure has been visualized in a small meeting prior to the summit, this Thursday morning. In that meeting, Michel, Von der Leyen and the leaders of France, Emmanuel Macron, Germany, Olaf Scholz, and Italy, Giorgia Meloni, have cornered Orbán, who has finally put aside the veto. Later, the Polish Tusk, the Spanish Pedro Sánchez and the Belgian Alexander De Croo joined. The message has been clear: there were 26 partners against one. And a good part of those 26 shored up their position and strengthened their unity at a dinner on Wednesday. Some leaders waved the possible consequences for Budapest if it maintained the veto, among them, reactivating the process to strip it of its right to vote for its failures to comply with the rule of law; a nuclear button that almost no one wants to use.

While his counterparts had dinner, Orbán went to see farmers protesting in Brussels in demonstrations supported and partially called by organizations related to the ultra-conservative leader’s party. On Thursday morning, the Hungarian confessed to Michel that he had barely slept because of the noise of the protesters under his hotel, while the president of the European Council joked with him, assuring that it was a “Belgian tactic” to overcome the resistance of he.

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Thus, after a month and a half of conversations with the Hungarian, an agreement has been reached to unblock the review of the multiannual financial framework. It is a financial package that, in addition to the lifeline for Ukraine (33 billion in loans and 17 billion in subsidies), includes new funds for the common coffers to confront migratory flows, European competitiveness programs and respond to natural disasters. These are elements of great importance for several Member States.

The EU has played carrot and stick with the Hungarian prime minister, says a senior community source. The atmosphere in Brussels has been dire, with Orbán accusing the European Commission of favoring other partners and of unfairly keeping funds frozen for Hungary (blocked by its violations of the rule of law). Meanwhile, the Community Executive has been harshly criticized by the European Parliament for releasing part of these funds on the eve of the December summit, a gesture that some have perceived as transactional. In the midst of this noise, the leaders recalled this Thursday in their statement the criteria of the so-called conditionality mechanism, which allows these European funds to be retained when the community budget is at risk. A reminder that, without a doubt, Orbán will also make his own reading of it.

Doubts in the US

The 50 billion euro European financial lifeline, proposed by the European Commission in June as one of the EU’s new spending priorities, has taken on even greater importance for the invaded country as US aid falters. Washington has blocked a package of some 55 billion euros due to its internal struggles (mainly due to the reluctance of the Republicans) in a context in which the possibility of the return to the White House of Donald Trump, who has criticized the formula that Democrat Joe Biden has used to support Kiev. The EU can be left alone in its support for Ukraine, a country already a candidate for the EU, and in the face of the threat that Russia poses to the stability of Europe, a threat that is perceived more clearly by Eastern partners, such as Poland or the Baltics. Hence the seriousness of Orbán’s position, who for some leaders has put the unity of the community club at risk on a key issue.

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“Supporting Ukraine is very important not only for Ukraine, but for Europe,” remarked the Latvian Prime Minister, Evika Silina, upon arrival at the meeting in Brussels. Russia is “the greatest threat to European security,” insisted the high representative for Foreign Policy and Security, Josep Borrell. “We have to support Ukraine, because if not the price will be very high,” added the head of European diplomacy, who has demanded that, in addition to the 50 billion at stake, military support for kyiv be increased this Thursday. “Hungary needs Europe and should analyze the advantages it has by being in the EU,” remarked the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas.

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