In a surprising move, Hungary has vetoed €50 billion in EU aid to Ukraine, just hours after an agreement was reached to initiate membership talks. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared the veto, stating it was a summary of the night’s discussions in Brussels. The EU leaders have decided to resume aid negotiations early next year.
While Hungary, maintaining close ties with Russia, has opposed Ukraine’s EU membership, it did not block the membership talks. Orban briefly left the negotiating room, described as a pre-agreed and constructive measure, while the other 26 leaders proceeded with the unanimous vote.
Ukraine, heavily reliant on EU and US funding in its fight against Russian forces, celebrated the EU decision on membership talks. President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed it as a “victory.” Despite Hungary’s opposition to aid, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed confidence in reaching a deal in late January.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, confirmed that all but one EU leader had agreed on the aid package and broader budget proposals. The approval process will be revisited early next year to secure unanimity.
Ukraine is also awaiting approval for a $61 billion US defence aid package, facing delays due to disagreements among US lawmakers. Concerns arise as Ukraine’s counter-offensive slows down during the winter and President Zelensky’s wife warns of “mortal danger” without continued financial support.
In a historic move, the EU opened accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova, with Georgia receiving candidate status. President Zelensky called it a victory for Ukraine, while Moldovan President Maia Sandu expressed honour in sharing the path to EU accession. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan praised the EU’s crucial step towards fulfilling Ukraine and Moldova’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hailed the decision as a strong sign of support, emphasising that both countries belong to the European family. Despite Hungary’s dissent, the EU’s decision marks a significant development in Ukraine’s journey towards potential membership, subject to fulfilling various reforms and standards.