Orbán Must Not Hold EU Hostage Over Ukraine, Says Macron

Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

   Emmanuel Macron has emphasized that Viktor Orbán should not be allowed to "take the EU hostage" after the Hungarian prime minister blocked a €50bn EU aid package for Ukraine in the early hours of Friday.

As EU leaders begin working on the details of an alternative plan to raise the money through cash and loans, the French president accused Orbán of being dishonest with the public about his reasons for vetoing the financial package. Macron expressed confidence that Orbán would eventually change his stance.

The failure to secure additional aid to support Ukraine's budget over the next four years dealt a setback to Kyiv, despite the EU's symbolic agreement to initiate membership talks. EU leaders plan to reconvene in January or February to seek approval for the funding package from all member states, asserting that Orbán's decision was an act of self-harm.

“The question is how we move forward collectively. And for me, the next few months are decisive months for Hungary and for us,” stated Macron.

Diplomats and EU leaders have indicated a preference for the Ukraine fund to be sourced from the central budget. However, if this approach faces obstacles, they have asserted that they can secure the €50bn (£43bn) — comprising €17bn in cash and €33bn in loans — even without the cooperation of Viktor Orbán.

“I think we can fund Ukraine if we are totally blocked next year,” Macron told reporters after the EU summit in Brussels.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said he was a “bit disappointed” that they could not agree on the budget, but it was “not a disaster in the sense that we can now roll over the loans to Ukraine”.

He added: “The money will continue to flow to Ukraine for the next couple of months, and hopefully when we come back here in January or February we’ll be able to agree a package of financial support for Ukraine.”

Macron predicted that the Hungarians would continue to defend their “legitimate national interests”, but expected them to “go beyond posturing”, show responsibility and “behave like Europeans and not take the political progress hostage”.

Orbán, who has a history of trying to use disagreements with other EU leaders for his electoral benefit, told state radio he had blocked the aid package to ensure that Budapest gets funds from the EU budget that are frozen over concerns about the rule of law in Hungary.

Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, declared that it is a great opportunity for Hungary to make it clear that it must receive what it is entitled to, not just a fraction of it. The European Commission recently restored Hungary's access to €10.2 billion in frozen funds after Budapest addressed some EU concerns. However, funds worth billions of euros remain frozen.

Russia praised Hungary for blocking the aid, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stating that Budapest, "in contrast to many European countries, firmly defends its interests, which impresses us." The recent summit in Brussels concluded talks on the budget after EU leaders decided not to isolate Hungary further.

Earlier, Orbán withdrew his threat to veto the decision to allow negotiations to begin on Ukraine's bid for EU membership. Reports suggest that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested to Orbán to take a coffee break as talks over enlargement hit deadlock. Orbán left the room, and upon his return, everyone was reportedly laughing, according to diplomatic sources.

After German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested taking a coffee break during stalled talks over enlargement, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reportedly used the opportunity to go to the toilet, according to sources. Despite Hungary's current lack of agreement, other EU leaders express confidence that Hungary will join the consensus in the coming year.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated, "With 26 countries, we agree. There is no agreement from Hungary at the moment, but I am very confident for next year." Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas echoed this sentiment, saying, "I am confident the 26 members want this. As long as he [Orbán] says the wrong things, but does the right things, we are OK."

Orbán, however, remained defiant, stating that he could block Ukraine's accession to the EU at various points in the lengthy process. French President Emmanuel Macron asserted behind the scenes that Orbán would not obstruct the talks if Ukraine completes the necessary reforms by March, according to a report.

French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized that if Ukraine meets the conditions set by the European Commission, negotiations for its EU membership will proceed. Macron stated that he asked Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about this, and Orbán assured him that he would not block the negotiations if Ukraine fulfills the required criteria.

The leaders also discussed various topics, including the war in the Middle East, potential sanctions on Israeli settlers involved in violence in the West Bank, and the rise of antisemitism. While no conclusions or decisions were planned, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar mentioned that the majority of countries were leaning toward calling for a "humanitarian ceasefire."