Hungary Backs Off: EU Approves $54 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

The European Union approved a massive new aid package for Ukraine on Thursday, but only after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban backed off his original demands.
The deal, valued at the equivalent of $54 billion and lasting through 2027, was announced as the leaders of the 27 countries in the European Union were meeting for a summit in Brussels.

The European Parliament still needs to endorse this agreement, but once it does, the first group of funds could be sent to Ukraine. Officials in the country believe they might receive this money as early as next month.

When the aid package was proposed in December, Orban blocked it from being adopted. While the Hungarian prime minister reluctantly accepted a provision in the agreement that would allow Ukraine to apply for membership to the EU, he objected to the length of the aid package.

While the other 26 member states approved the proposal, Orban used his veto power to block it. Every member state holds absolute veto power, a provision that was included in the EU charter to prevent the union’s larger states from steamrolling over the smaller ones.

Orban argued that the Ukraine aid should be put up for a vote annually, rather than given in one large chunk. The other member states argued that doing so would allow Hungary to make annual demands in exchange for approving the funds.

ABC News issued a report Thursday, citing an anonymous EU official, that Orban agreed to back off those demands because EU leaders agreed to review this budget in two years, if members thought it was necessary.

The official added, though, that such a review wouldn’t include the opportunity for Orban — or any other official — to veto the budget.

After the deal was announced, Orban touted it as beneficial to Hungary, saying in a video posted to Facebook that the review mechanism would “guarantee the rational use of the funds.”

“We were afraid that the EU money owed to Hungarians, which the commission has not given us yet, would sooner or later end up in Ukraine,” Orban explained in the video. “We received a guarantee that Hungary’s money would not be transferred to Ukraine.”