BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary will not support the European Union’s plan to provide billions in budget aid to Ukraine next year, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday as he probed his country’s failure to block a massive aid package announced by the EU last week.
Speaking at the conference in Budapest, Orban said that although Hungary condemns Russia’s aggression and supports the Ukrainian people, it does not want to put the interests of Ukraine above the interests of its own country.
The bailout plan will provide Ukraine with 18 billion euros ($18.6 billion) in regular payments next year to help keep its energy and health facilities running, as well as fund salary and pension schemes.
Hungary’s refusal to ratify it threatens to derail the plan entirely, as changes to EU budget rules require unanimous approval by member states.
Orban, known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the EU, has also publicly opposed the bloc’s sanctions against Moscow over the war in Ukraine, although he has always voted for them.
As an alternative to the EU aid plan, Orbán recommended that the 27 EU members decide how much they are willing to give to Ukraine and divide the amount among themselves “proportionately and fairly” without taking out joint loans to make the payments.
According to him, Hungary would be ready to give Ukraine 60-70 billion forints ($152-178 million) from its budget on bilateral terms – an amount that, he said, would not fundamentally harm Hungary’s national interests.
The Hungarian government’s threat to veto the Ukraine aid package comes after the EU suspended the adoption of a global corporate tax deal in June and campaigned hard at home against sanctions against Russia. Orbán argues that such measures are destroying the European economy and bringing the EU closer to war itself.
But some in the EU see the moves as a sign that Budapest has leverage to try to force the bloc to release billions in economic recovery funds and other money held over concerns that Orban has curbed democratic norms and run afoul of the law. – legal standards.
Last week, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who answered a question about Hungary’s blocking of EU financial aid to Ukraine, said that there are stakes in the delivery of aid to Ukraine as winter approaches.
“Our financial and humanitarian support and our support for civilian infrastructure as part of winter aid is not a normal European issue where money is being negotiated back and forth.”
“This financial support from Europe saves lives every day and I think and believe that everyone knows and should know this in these difficult times,” he said.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said the aid to Ukraine would likely include loans on extremely favorable terms worth around 1.5 billion euros per month starting in January. Ukraine will not have to repay the funds for at least ten years, and EU member states will cover the interest costs.
The Commission intends to borrow money from the capital markets using the combined weight of 27 countries on more favorable terms. Some efforts will involve restructuring part of the EU’s long-term budget, which requires unanimous approval by member states.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.