Viktor Orban refuses to support Ukraine at the start of the EU leaders’ summit

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The Hungarian Prime Minister said at the beginning of the European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels that Ukraine does not deserve to start EU accession talks or receive financial support from the Union’s common budget.

Viktor Orban is the main obstacle to reaching an agreement on a four-year, €50 billion financial aid package for Kiev to keep its war-torn economy afloat and open formal talks for the country to join the European Union, the bloc’s primary geopolitical goal once Russia joins. The war ends.

The European Union’s ability to continue to support Ukraine has become critical given the failure of the US Congress to agree on a $60 billion package for Kiev proposed by the White House.

Orban had previously postponed the adoption of European Union sanctions against Moscow and obtained exceptions for his country’s imports of fossil fuels from Russia. On Thursday, he rejected the findings of the European Commission report that recommended leaders open accession negotiations with Ukraine, and refused to approve financing for Kiev from the bloc’s common budget.

“There’s no reason to discuss anything [on accession talks] “The preconditions have not been met,” Orban told reporters upon his arrival at the summit on Thursday. Regarding financial aid, he said: “In the long term, and the largest amount of money, my decision is that we give it abroad.” [the budget]”.

EU officials have begun technical discussions on an alternative solution, outside the common budget, but have publicly stressed that their only goal is to persuade Orban to give up his veto power. Officials say the off-budget tool will only last one year, will be more expensive, and take longer to set up.

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Leaders of the other 26 EU countries said they were ready to hold a long summit if necessary, in order to overcome Orban’s opposition.

“I’m ready to negotiate. I’ve packed a lot of shirts [if] “It’s taking us a long time,” Finnish Prime Minister Petri Orpo said upon arriving at the summit, which was originally scheduled to last two days. Supporting Ukraine was about “our security and our existence as a credible union. We need strong resistance here,” he added. “We have to show our unity.”

In a video address to EU leaders, Zelensky said the bloc had given Ukraine a “clear timetable” for accession and that delaying the decision would be a “victory” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Last year, Ukraine received clear recommendations on how to move forward. We passed key laws…Today is the day of a political decision in response to what we have accomplished.”

Putin on Thursday vowed to continue his invasion of Ukraine until “his goals are achieved” and expressed confidence that the West’s support for Kiev would falter.

Putin said: “Ukraine produces almost nothing today. Everything comes from the West, but someday the free materials will run out, and it seems that they already are.”

Orban was the only EU leader to meet Putin this year. But in addition to his overtures to the Russian president, the Hungarian prime minister is using his influence over Ukraine to secure more funding for his country from Brussels.

On Wednesday, the European Commission released 10 billion euros, or about a third of funding allocated to Hungary, which had been frozen over rule of law issues — and an Orbán official suggested this week that was not enough for the prime minister to give up his veto power.

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“I always have some difficulty with things like this [summit] “Where one person thinks we can deliver all kinds of things,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

Aside from discussions on Ukraine, EU leaders are preparing for long negotiations on increasing the size of the bloc’s budget, whether to start membership talks with Moldova and Bosnia and granting candidate status to Georgia, as well as taking a common position on Israel and Hamas. conflict.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he would push for stronger language calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and support for the two-state solution. He added: “I believe that the European Union has lost its credibility because of our inability to take a stronger and more united position on Israel and Palestine.”

Austria has also emerged as a potential obstacle to Ukraine’s EU membership aspirations, asking Brussels not to accelerate Ukraine’s membership negotiations at the expense of the six Western Balkan countries, especially Bosnia, which the commission said has not made as much progress as it has. Ukraine.

A senior EU diplomat said: “They are rethinking” about starting talks despite agreeing to grant Ukraine candidate status last year. This person also noted that some countries, including Italy, wanted to link funds allocated to Ukraine to increases in the EU budget in areas such as migration.

Additional reporting by Max Seddon in London

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