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    Viktor Orbán gives in


    The European Union remains united in its support for Ukraine. At a special summit of 27 heads of state and government on Thursday, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gave up his months-long resistance to financial aid worth 50 billion euros. The money from the EU budget is intended to ensure the financial survival of the state that Russia has launched a war of aggression until 2027. Apparently the pressure that the other governments had put on Orbán had become too great. He had been made to understand that if he continued to refuse, it would actually amount to a break between Hungary and the EU. Viktor Orbán was no longer able to make any significant concessions.

    In the days before the summit, the Hungarian declared that he would not allow himself to be blackmailed by Brussels. He was reacting to speculation by diplomats that Hungary could be deprived of its voting rights because of violations of EU principles. In addition, an explosive paper from the cabinet of Council President Charles Michel was made public. It contained simulation games to put the Hungarian state under pressure on the financial markets.

    Hungary is still waiting for 20 billion euros from Brussels

    The EU is still withholding 20 billion in funding due to violations of the rule of law in Hungary. The Commission had released ten billion immediately before the summit in mid-December, at which Orbán then cleared the way for EU accession talks with Ukraine by leaving the room during the vote. Tenor of the paper: Orbán could forget about the remaining 20 billion if he doesn't also give in to financial aid.

    Before the special summit began, attempts were made in several rounds to find an agreement with Viktor Orbán. A photo that he spread on social media shows him at a table with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, French President Emmanuel Macron, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel. “A relaxed morning session,” commented Orbán.

    Ukraine aid: EU Commission President von der Leyen, Council President Michel, French President Macron, Italian Prime Minister Meloni (3rd from right), Hungary's Prime Minister Orbán and Federal Chancellor Scholz at the EU summit in Brussels.

    EU Commission President von der Leyen, Council President Michel, French President Macron, Italian Prime Minister Meloni (3rd from right), Hungary's Prime Minister Orbán and Federal Chancellor Scholz at the EU summit in Brussels.

    (Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP)

    The paper that was ultimately agreed upon now contains the comment that the state of the rule of law in Hungary is being assessed “fairly and objectively” by the European Commission. This actually goes without saying, but it should make it clear: the outstanding 20 billion from Brussels should not be used as a means of pressure against Orbán, but must be released as soon as Hungary meets the conditions. But Orbán is far from that.

    Orbán justified his original rejection of further EU financial aid with the general situation in Ukraine. The country is involved in a war that it cannot win and the state is highly corrupt. As a compromise, he recently offered that the payment of the annual tranches to Ukraine should have to be approved unanimously by the 27 member states.

    But that was out of the question for the other governments. They did not want to give Orbán any further opportunities to block. In fact, there will now be an annual report from the Commission on the implementation of the aid package – and a debate about it at the level of heads of state and government. Orbán later cited this as the reason for his approval. But the decision to make changes to the package must be unanimous.

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked EU Council President Charles Michel and the heads of state and government of the 27 member states. On the short message platform X He called it “very important” that the deal was supported by all EU countries. If Orbán had continued to refuse, the other 26 states would have raised the 50 billion for Ukraine bypassing the EU budget. However, this would have involved a lengthy process involving the national parliaments.

    This is also why Chancellor Olaf Scholz pushed for a common solution. He did not want to answer afterwards how exactly Orbán had been changed. In any case, the talks with Orbán were conducted “with great clarity,” he said, and also emphasized that there were no secret side agreements. Aid to Ukraine is a matter in which the EU must “stand together as a family.” The decision is “a good message for Ukraine, a good message for the EU,” and US President Joe Biden will also benefit from it. In his efforts to get money for Ukraine in Congress, the US President could point to Europe making its contribution.

    Olaf Scholz once again warned that the Europeans must now support Ukraine with more weapons. “In many capitals the question must be asked: Are we doing enough? In most of them the answer can only be: No.”

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