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16th Apr 2024

Hungary 'unpredictable' ahead of EU summit on Ukraine

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EU leaders will discuss holding annual debates on their €50bn four-year economic aid package to Ukraine, but it is unclear if this will convince Hungary to allow further aid urgently needed by Kyiv.

"The European Council will hold a debate each year on the implementation of the [€50bn] facility with a view to providing guidance on the EU approach towards the situation stemming from Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine," said a new paragraph added to the draft conclusions of the summit, which were discussed by EU ambassadors on Wednesday (31 January).

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But whether this will be acceptable for Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán is unclear as talks during the summit are "unpredictable," an EU diplomat said.

"Nothing is guaranteed" and the discussion is very "delicate" at the moment, the diplomat also said.

There is a lot of "irritation" against Orbán, another EU diplomat said.

This comes amid widespread frustration that Orbán has been blocking all compromises on the issue since December, listing demands that are a red-line for the majority of EU countries, while becoming more and more isolated.

Hungary, known for its close relations with Moscow, has been pushing for an annual review with the right to veto the disbursement of payments to Ukraine, which would empower Orbán to block funds at a later stage.

This is a clear red line for almost all countries, several diplomats have said.

If no solution is found with all 27 member states, the president of the European Council Charles Michel will have to come up with an alternative proposal for funding Ukraine.

This 'Plan B' would be decoupled from the EU budget and based on the delivery of contributions from EU member states on a voluntary basis.

"Member states have several ways to deal with financing for Ukraine," said Latvian defence minister Andris Sprūds in Brussels on Wednesday.

While some money could be quickly disbursed to Ukraine to alleviate liquidity problems, it's not the best choice because it could make future financing less predictable.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the main political parties in the European Parliament have called on EU states to deliver on their promise to support Ukraine at all costs — amid fears that no solution will be found within the context of the revision of the EU budget.

"Tomorrow's extraordinary meeting of the EU heads of state and government is a crucial opportunity to translate declarations into deeds," the heads of the five main political parties said in a joint statement.

At the same time, EU defence ministers meeting in Brussels on Wednesday pledged to speed up ammunition deliveries to Ukraine.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Europe was on course to have delivered 530,000 artillery shells to Ukraine between last March and the end of this March.

It was on course to have delivered 1.1m shells by the end of this year. The EU's original promise was 1m shells by the end of this March.

Total EU and member states' arms supplies to Ukraine since the war began were worth €28bn, Borrell added.

Pledges indicated a further €21bn would arrive this year.

"The numbers keep evolving, increasing every day," Borrell said.

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