The EU could unlock 10 billion euros ($11 billion) of frozen funds to Hungary after steps taken by Budapest to strengthen the judiciary’s independence, an EU official said Thursday.

Critics accuse nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of threatening to block key decisions on Ukraine in an bid to blackmail the bloc into releasing the frozen funds.

EU chief Charles Michel held talks Monday with Orban, seeking to defuse tensions after Hungary’s premier ramped up anti-EU rhetoric in the past weeks.

Hungary has taken measures that entered into force in June including restoring the independence and power of the National Judicial Council.

Some 10 billion euros could be released following the progress made by Budapest on judicial independence after “the last remaining issues” are settled, the official, who did not wish to be named, said, pointing to “positive developments”.

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A further 500 million euros could be released soon after.

Brussels still wants to see legislative changes by Hungary on links between national courts and European courts.

The European Union has placed a hold on 22 billion euros in cohesion funds for Hungary until it can prove reforms have been taken to ensure the independence of judges, the rights of LGBTQI+ minorities and the independence of academics.

Last week, the EU authorised a 900-million-euro advance to Hungary as part of a 10.4 billion post-Covid pandemic recovery fund.

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The thin sliver of land has been de facto controlled by pro-Russian forces since the collapse of the Soviet Union but is internationally recognized as part of Moldova.

The disbursement of the bulk of that money has been suspended until Budapest meets several rule-of-law conditions, which the EU says it has been flouting.

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