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27th Feb 2024

EU fails to agree on €50bn war aid for Ukraine, after Orbán veto

  • EU leaders failed to agree on a new aid package for Ukraine (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)
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EU leaders were eager to signal their unwavering support for beleaguered Ukraine, but failed to agree on a €50bn aid package badly needed for the Ukrainian war effort at this Thursday's (14 December) summit in Brussels.

During the evening 26 member states agreed on giving Ukraine more funding. But Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán blocked all compromises and around two o'clock in the morning on Friday, leaders decided to postpone the final decision until 2024.

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"We made great progress," said EU Council president Charles Michel.

Already in June, the EU Commission with broad support of its member states had promised to provide Ukraine with a further €50bn until 2027.

Although leaders from 26 member states eventually were able to get behind €17bn in grants and €33bn in loans, much can still change in talks now planned for January.

The night was not a complete failure. however.

Sooner than expected, accession talks were allowed to proceed during negotiations after German chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Hungary's Viktor Orbán to leave the room so that the other 26 countries could legally agree on continuing the enlargement process.

Under EU rules, an abstention does not prevent a decision from being adopted.

"He left the room and at some point, we were able to make a decision," Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said early on Friday morning.

When asked whether this would be the new strategy to deal with dissenting member states, Rutte said: "No, well it is not unusual in the Netherlands either, sometimes someone disappears behind a curtain."

Orbán can still block accession talks next year and said on the sidelines that the EU decision did not change his mind.

"Ukraine is not ready for us to begin negotiations on its EU membership. It's a completely illogical, irrational and improper decision" he said.

Despite this, Thursday's announcement was met with enthusiasm in Kyiv.

"Right now in Ukraine, a lot of us are feeling really uplifted. [This is] a big deal," said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on social media. "[This] keeps us going."

On Tuesday, Zelenskyy also visited Washington to plead for the approval of a $60bn [€54bn] package which is struggling to pass through US Congress.

So far, Republicans seem determined to hold up new funding.

"Congress needs to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday break time," said Zelenskyy.

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