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The Hungarian government on Tuesday blocked an agreement on an 18 billion euro aid package for Ukraine, forcing the European Commission and other EU countries to look for a workaround to ensure Kyiv gets much-needed money in January.
EU Commissioner for the Budget Johannes Hahn said during a meeting plenary session The bloc’s finance ministers. EU officials said this could entail something akin to so-called enhanced cooperation, a legal path to avoid a veto.
But this solution would require EU countries to provide national safeguards against software bugs which, in some cases, would need parliamentary approval, something that could take some time.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has chosen to play hard ball, using the need for his approval of Ukraine aid as leverage to secure his share of the EU and refund money. The European Union has sought to block some funds earmarked for Budapest for violations of the rule of law.
Tuesday’s Hungarian veto meant that decisions on all the other files on the finance ministers’ agenda – the minimum corporate tax rate, which Budapest also bans, Hungary’s recovery plan tied to €5.8 billion in grants, and the decision to freeze €7.5 billion in financing EU-Hungary on Corruption Cases – Postponed.
“We have not been able to adopt the whole package but we will not be disappointed,” said Czech Finance Minister Zbenik Stanjora while presiding over the meeting of finance ministers. Our ambition remains to start disbursing money to Ukraine in January.
He tasked the council with working on a “solution supported by 26 member states”, which would circumvent the Hungarian veto.
The Czech presidency must now decide what to do next: a possible new summit of finance ministers later in December – with 12 December as a possible date – or escalate the issue to a meeting of EU leaders in mid-December.
EU governments have until December 19 to take a position on freezing EU funds for Hungary. Orbán needs to approve his recovery plan by the end of the year or risk losing 70% of the €5.8 billion in grants.
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