Hungary infuriates EU with block on €18B Ukraine aid

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BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock slammed Hungary on Thursday for blocking €18 billion of EU monetary aid to Ukraine, saying that Budapest mustn’t “play poker” in an try to put stress on Brussels in a separate rule-of-law dispute.

Baerbock’s protest echoed appeals from a number of EU diplomats who accused Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s authorities of blackmail.

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed an €18 billion support package to assist Ukraine preserve its financial system and public companies afloat all through the approaching 12 months and to revive vital infrastructure destroyed by Russian missile and kamikaze drone strikes.

At an EU ambassadors’ assembly, additionally on Wednesday, Hungary mentioned it couldn’t help the aid bundle, in keeping with three officers. This creates a doubtlessly deadly hurdle as the cash for Ukraine can’t circulate with out the backing of all 27 EU international locations due to funds guidelines demanding unanimity.

Hungary’s wrecking ball has created frustration in Brussels, Berlin and different EU capitals. Four EU officers and diplomats instructed POLITICO that they see Budapest’s blockage of the Ukraine aid as a blackmail tactic to create stress to launch over €13 billion of EU funds for Hungary, which might be suspended subsequent month if the nation doesn’t sufficiently handle longstanding issues over democratic backsliding.

Baerbock joined the fray on Thursday.

“Our monetary, our humanitarian help [to Ukraine] inside the framework of winter aid is just not a traditional European matter the place folks play poker and negotiate backwards and forwards about monetary assets,” the German international minister instructed reporters in response to a query from POLITICO about whether or not Hungary was attempting to strongarm the EU into making concessions within the rule-of-law dispute.

“We are in a scenario the place we’re saving lives exactly with the monetary help from Europe,” mentioned Baerbock, who was talking at a press convention with her Swedish counterpart Tobias Billström in Berlin.

“We are seeing that at the least 30 %, if not 40 %, of the civilian infrastructure [in Ukraine] has been destroyed,” she added, arguing the EU aid bundle have to be accredited shortly as a result of “winter is simply across the nook.”

A spokesperson for the Hungarian Permanent Representation to the EU didn’t reply to a request for remark.

On Tuesday, Hungary’s Finance Minister Mihály Varga sought to justify Hungary’s opposition to the EU aid bundle: “Hungary is able to help Ukraine, however we don’t want to contribute to any new mortgage to be taken up by the EU.”

Hungary’s Finance Minister Mihály Varga mentioned his nation desires to help Ukraine, however “we don’t want to contribute to any new mortgage to be taken up by the EU” | Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE

Hungary is underneath growing monetary stress because the EU is threatening to droop about €7.5 billion in EU funds for the nation underneath a mechanism that hyperlinks funds payouts to rule-of-law requirements, whereas an extra €5.8 billion in coronavirus restoration funds are additionally on the road. Brussels is demanding anti-corruption and judicial reforms to unlock the cash.

On Thursday night, the German parliament is anticipated to undertake a decision that urges the federal government to “totally” scrutinize Hungary’s reforms and solely launch the cash if Budapest can show it’s critical about its intentions to reform.

The matter is prone to come to a head at a gathering of European finance ministers on December 6.

Paola Tamma contributed reporting.

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