A crunch meeting today will see EU members face off against Hungary as they try to solve a dispute over billions of euros of aid for Ukraine.

What’s the dispute about?

In December, the EU proposed a new tranche of aid for Ukraine totaling €50 billion ($54 billion).

At a time when US aid is being stonewalled by Donald Trump and some Republicans, this massive amount is increasingly vital in Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

Every member of the EU voted for the package, except Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Why did Hungary veto it?

The first thing to know is that Orbán is the only EU leader who has maintained close ties with the Kremlin following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He has called for ceasefire negotiations with Moscow, saying that Kyiv cannot win the war.

Advertisement

The second thing to know is that Hungary under Orbán’s leadership has become a more authoritarian country that is increasingly at odds with the ideals of the EU.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed, and there is a massive chunk of EU money destined for Hungary that is currently frozen pending progress on issues including academic freedom, LGBTQ rights and protection for asylum seekers.

Although there are other factors at play, the current stand-off comes down to Orbán holding Ukraine’s future hostage in a bid to blackmail Brussels into releasing the money.

How has the EU reacted to this?

Other EU countries are largely united in their desire to get the aid to Ukraine, and earlier this week Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the EU would find a way to provide it “with or without” Hungary’s approval.

Donors, Send Donations to Ukrainian People Rather Than to Amnesty International
Other Topics of Interest

Donors, Send Donations to Ukrainian People Rather Than to Amnesty International

According to the author Amnesty International is no longer the human rights organization it once was purported to be.

And they’re not messing about – the Financial Times reported on Monday that a confidential proposal circulating in Brussels called for shutting off all EU funding to Budapest, with the aim of spooking investors and sabotaging Hungary’s fragile economy, should it refuse to play ball.

The report drew a furious response from Hungary, with the country’s EU minister writing in a post on social media: “Hungary does not give in to blackmail!”

Advertisement

What’s the latest situation ahead of tomorrow?

On Wednesday, it was reported that EU countries have offered Orbán an annual debate on aid to Ukraine, but crucially, no yearly veto.

A high-ranking EU official said it was “one step towards Hungary” but there was “still a problem.”

“We have reached a stage where it is for leaders to solve it, especially on the Hungarian side,” the official said.

Where is Kyiv in all this?

As a non-EU member, Ukraine is to some extent on the sidelines watching the debate between Hungary and the EU unfold.

But that’s not to say they’re not doing anything.

Ukraine has taken a careful diplomatic route to try and get Hungary onside and earlier this week the foreign ministers of both countries met with a view to setting up a meeting between Orbán and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the near future.

After the talks which were held in the western Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod, Andriy Yermak, the Zelensky’s chief of staff, said: Today, both sides made it absolutely clear that they are interested in holding a meeting at the level of the Prime Minister of Hungary and the President of Ukraine.

Advertisement

“I believe that today we have made a powerful step towards this meeting.”

But the Hungarian side was not so positive. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, said: “Ukraine, there is still a long way to restore trust.”

A day later, he added: “If Ukraine met Hungary’s conditions that would create a ‘clean slate’ in bilateral relations and allow for a top-level meeting.”

What are the issues between Hungary and Ukraine?

Hungary has been pushing the issue of minority rights in Ukraine due to a large ethnic Hungarian community that lives in the Uzhhorod, where this weeks’ meeting took place.

Budapest wants Ukraine to restore the status of the Hungarian language to the same level it was before Kyiv passed a language education law in 2017, which foresaw the implementation of Ukrainian as the main language for all secondary education.

Previously, minority languages like Hungarian and Russian could be used as the main language of instruction in some secondary schools.

Balázs Orbán, Political Director of Hungary’s PM and his “right-hand man,” stated in the interview with Dutch NOS that unless new language legislation exists in Ukraine “there can be no discussions with the Ukrainians about their integration into the EU.”

Advertisement

According to him, the legislation “made life of Hungarians in Ukraine miserable.”

To complicate matters further, László Toroczkai, the leader of far right Hungarian party “Mi Hazánk” said last week that “if Ukraine’s statehood were to cease as a result of the war,” his party “as the sole Hungarian side” would “claim Zakarpattia.”

However, in Uzhhorod the Hungarian delegation expressed its commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

“We understand that not everyone wants good relations between Ukraine and Hungary... But if Putin broke his teeth on Ukraine, then individual Hungarian politicians who make such statements will do the same, even more,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said at the joint Ukrainian-Hungarian press conference.

He went on: “I want to thank Peter [Szijjártó] again for expressing the clear position of the Hungarian government regarding the support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country.”

Anything else I need to know?

There was a curious incident last week ahead of the meeting in Uzhhorod.

On Jan. 23 the main Hungarian pro-government media site Index, reported that the Hungarian embassy in Ukraine received an email with threats against Minister Szijjártó.

Unknown people allegedly wrote in Ukrainian that they were planning to kill him during his visit to Ukraine.

The Hungarian embassy confirmed in a comment to Kyiv Post that such threats were received before the visit at the high level.

Advertisement

“According to the protocol for such cases, we contacted the relevant security services of the host country, providing them with all the necessary information. Please contact them with any additional questions,” the press service of Hungary’s embassy said.

Kyiv Post also contacted the Kyiv’s police for further details but said the case was not registered so far. 

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter