Orban explains why he agreed on budget for Ukraine
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has defended the agreement reached at the European summit on a financial aid package for Ukraine in a video on social media. Orbán blocked an agreement in December.
The 50 billion euros in structural aid the EU is offering Ukraine is embedded in the European multi-annual budget, which required all 27 leaders to approve the package. At the previous summit, Orbán, who has ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin, questioned the long-term aid to Ukraine and used his veto in an attempt to stop the European budget from going to Kyiv.
When asked about dropping his veto at Thursday's summit, Orbán said he received the "offer" that a mechanism will be put in place "to guarantee that the money will be used wisely and that the money that the European funds intended for Hungarians, which the European Commission had not yet given us, will not go to Ukraine".
Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said that sometimes an agreement needed some "maturation time". "Also, we have left zero room for disagreement among the 26 since the last summit," he said.
A passage was written into the summit conclusions referring to an earlier promise by European leaders that the EU's conditionality mechanism would be "objective, fair, impartial and fact-based". That mechanism is designed to protect the budget from fraud and misappropriation of EU money and was used to block 6.3 billion euros of Hungarian cohesion money.
At the conclusion of Thursday's summit, the European Council agreed to reinforce new priorities by 64.6 billion euros. The breakdown of the budget consisted of 50 billion for Ukraine, 2 billion for migration and border management, 7.6 billion for neighbourhood and the world, 1.5 billion for the European Defence Fund, 2 billion for the flexibility instrument (in cases of specific unforeseen events) and 1.5 billion for the solidarity and aid reserve.
The leaders did not find agreement on the strengthening of the European Peace Facility, which is used to finance arms supplies to Ukraine, a topic that will be revisited in early March. As for the military aid , the leaders committed to keeping it at the same level "based on Ukraine's needs".
Prime minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán at the start of the EU Council summit on Thursday © PHOTO LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP