EU approves €50B Ukraine aid as Viktor Orbán folds

The deal on Ukraine aid comes after a small group of leaders persuaded Hungary’s PM to drop his veto on the funding package.

By Gregorio Sorgi, Barbara Moens and Elisa Braun

European Union leaders on Thursday reached a deal to provide €50 billion in aid to Ukraine — and they were in unanimous agreement after some leaders persuaded the sole holdout, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, to drop his veto.

“All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion support package for Ukraine within the EU budget,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote on X, a few minutes after the formal start of the Council meeting on Thursday.

“This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine,” he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was “grateful” to Charles Michel and EU leaders for establishing the €50 billion Ukraine Facility.

“It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders, which once again proves strong EU unity,” Zelenskyy tweeted.

“Continued EU financial support for Ukraine will strengthen long-term economic and financial stability, which is no less important than military assistance and sanctions pressure on Russia,” he added.

The European leaders managed to win over Orbán with three additions, diplomats said. There will be an annual report by the European Commission on the implementation of the aid package, there will be a debate at leaders’ level on the implementation of the package and, if it is needed, in two years the European Council will ask the Commission propose a review of the new budget, according to the latest version of the draft European Council conclusions.

EU leaders added a line referring to earlier conclusions from December 2020 to guarantee that the way the rule of law in Hungary is evaluated by the European Commission is done in a fair and objective manner.

This is music to Orbán’s ears, as the 2020 text has implications for the €6.3 billion of EU cohesion funds that were frozen for Hungary over rule-of-law shortcomings.

The key bit of the text emphasizes the European Commission should be “objective, fair, impartial and fact-based” and guarantee “non-discrimination” when triggering the mechanism to block EU funding for national capitals.

The concessions are seen in Brussels as minor, as leaders have avoided a scenario in which Orbán would have the possibility of a yearly veto on the financial lifeline for Ukraine. But this way, Orbán can proclaim victory at home by saying Hungary obtained a review.

Orbán’s first public reaction to the deal came in a Facebook post in which said: “We fought it out! Hungarians can’t give money to Ukrainians! We do not participate in the war, we do not send weapons, we are still on the side of peace!”

The deal comes after meetings with small groups of leaders on Thursday.  Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, along with the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, held a closed-door meeting with the Hungarian prime minister. The meeting was then widened to other leaders, including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

Several diplomats denied other concessions were given to Orbán, and that the increased pressure from leaders made clear to Budapest that there was no alternative than giving in on the money to Ukraine. A key element was rebuilding trust between Hungary and the European Commission, for which the extra line on the conditionality mechanism was key.

Ketrin Jochecová contributed reporting to this story.

Source:, February 1, 2024

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