Hungary has blocked approval of an 18 billion euro financial aid package for Ukraine, prompting allegations from other European Union members that Prime Minister Viktor Orban is abusing his veto power.
The package, worth about $18.9 billion, would provide funds for Ukraine to maintain its staunch defense in the face of invasion from Russia. Orban’s vote forces other European nations to find alternative means to continue supporting Ukraine.
The European Union has decided to withhold $7.5 billion in funding to Hungary over fears of fraud and corruption. Orban’s critics believe he blocked proposed Ukrainian funds to pressure the rest of the bloc to unfreeze the funds.
The EU requires unanimity to send money to Ukraine through bloc channels, but individual nations can do it themselves too, though it’s more complicated to coordinate the effort.
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“Viktor Orban is abusing the veto like no one before him. … For this he also takes hostage funds for Ukrainian hospitals,” said Daniel Freund, a Green Party member and parliamentary negotiator on the rule of law issue. “Viktor Orban couldn’t have given Putin a nicer gift today.”
But Freund insisted that “the EU will find a way to support Ukraine even without Hungary. But this means: more time, more effort, more costs”.
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Orban denied his veto had anything to do with the funds dispute and instead was a statement about how the EU should operate, saying reports of a veto were “fake news. Hungary stands ready to assist budget to Ukraine, on a bilateral basis.”
He insisted that the bloc’s proposed method of delivering aid “is not the solution”.
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“If we continue down the road to a debt community, we won’t be able to go back,” he added without elaboration.
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Czech Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura told reporters: “Whether it’s plan A or plan B, at any price,” Europe must ensure that the money reaches Ukraine in early January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.