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EU leaders meet at a crucial summit to discuss Ukraine aid

The goal of this Thursday's summit of European leaders in Brussels is to break the impasse over financial assistance for Ukraine.

Last December, a €50 billion ($55 billion; £43 billion) aid package for Kiev was vetoed by Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban.

Many attributed the veto to the EU's decision to withhold €20 billion in funding for Hungary due to worries about the country's human rights record and corruption. 

Recently, there have been rumours that the EU may take additional punitive measures.

Leaders are becoming increasingly irritated with Hungary's position as the second anniversary of Russia's invasion draws near, as it is preventing money from reaching Ukraine.

During the most recent EU summit in December, Mr. Orban reluctantly granted Ukraine candidate country status.

Since the EU's 27 members must vote in unison to approve any fresh aid package, Mr. Orban has the power to veto the bloc's attempts to increase funds for Ukraine.

The closest ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the EU, Mr. Orban has consistently opposed sanctions on Russian gas and oil.

On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk declared that the EU would support Ukraine "with or without Orban," finding a means to do so "one way or another."

Earlier this week, The Financial Times reported that if Mr. Orban chooses to once more obstruct the aid package for Ukraine, Brussels officials might "hit Hungary's economy".

Balazs Orban, Mr. Orban's political director, responded to the threat on X, saying that Brussels was employing "blackmail against Hungary".

Mr. Orban previously suggested that EU nations could use funds from sources other than the EU budget to increase aid to Ukraine. Since then, he has declared that if a yearly vote is conducted prior to the delivery of the next aid package, he would be amenable to using the budget and lifting the veto on the financial package.

It is unlikely that EU leaders will accept this suggestion, though, as it would expose them to a yearly threat of a veto.

The majority of the major European countries have been impacted by weeks-long farmer protests, which form another backdrop for the summit.

Farmers are demonstrating against the EU's efforts to make agriculture more sustainable as well as the bloc's decision to remove export limitations for grain from Ukraine.

The length and scope of the farmers' protests have alarmed many European politicians, with dozens of tractors travelling to central Brussels for more protests prior to the summit.

The European Commission seemed to address a few of the farmers' concerns on Wednesday.

In addition to saying the EU would implement a "safeguard mechanism" that would enable it to reimpose emergency tariffs on Ukraine in the event that an excess of imports threatened to destabilise the market, it suggested an exception from the contentious fallow-land rule.

However, the farmers' organisation of the EU, Copa-Cogeca, has previously stated that the safeguard mechanism "would not provide sufficient relief for producers."


Edited by Tatyana Kekic


Image - TheFinancialTimes


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