Hungary bows to EU pressure for Ukraine aid

As the war in Ukraine nears the two-year mark, fighting on the battlefield has evolved into a fight for funding. 

What happened: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán OKed the EU’s proposed four-year €50 billion aid package for Ukraine after initially blocking it in December. Orbán had been demanding the power to potentially veto the package after it passed, but eventually gave in.

  • The surprise move came at the last minute of an emergency EU summit, where the bloc’s most powerful leaders all took turns laying into Orbán for not backing the deal.

Why it’s happening: The package, which still needs EU parliament approval, will provide a steady cash flow to prop up Ukraine’s economy, paying for things like pensions and schools. While the economy has been surprisingly stable, it remains vulnerable due to high military costs.

Catch-up: As (likely) the only ally of Vladimir Putin left in the EU, Orbán has repeatedly bristled at supporting Ukraine, upsetting his EU counterparts. In the past, Orbán has said that Russia poses no threat to the eurozone and has railed against sanctions on Russia.

  • Hungary has also justified its middling support for Ukrainian aid by pointing to its maltreatment of ethnic Hungarians, an issue Ukraine is trying to remedy. 
  • In addition to coziness with Russia, Hungary’s slow but steady authoritarian creep has also made it the black sheep of the EU, resulting in punishment via funding cuts.

Why it matters: The aid package is a lifeline for Ukraine at a time when counter-offensives have stalled, its leadership is in disarray, and funding fatigue is starting to set in. The EU isn’t just giving Ukraine money but a vote of confidence that the war is still worth fighting.  

Zoom out: The other big funding battle is happening in the U.S., where Republican lawmakers are blocking a US$60 billion aid package for Ukraine unless a deal is reached to pass new hardline immigration policies that would tighten up the U.S.-Mexican border.—QH