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HomeE.U.'A lamentable situation': Hungary maintains veto on EU military aid for Ukraine

‘A lamentable situation’: Hungary maintains veto on EU military aid for Ukraine

The extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in Kyiv did not bring the expected results. No agreement was reached on unblocking 500m-euro military aid to Ukraine.

Since May this year, Hungary has maintained its veto on the provision of military aid. The Hungarian leadership is unwavering in its decision despite the entreaties of Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. He is trying to mediate the bilateral dispute in an effort to maintain a united front. Borrell said at the end of Monday’s meeting, which was attended by President Volodymyr Zelensky:

“By coming to Kyiv the European Union foreign ministers send a strong message of solidarity and support to Ukraine in the face of this war. The strongest security commitment that we can give to Ukraine is European Union membership.”

Borrell said that the EU would continue to support Ukraine in all spheres, but did not mention Hungary‘s position. Hungary’s representative Péter Szijjártó did not attend the ministerial meeting and was represented by his deputy.

After Ukraine’s National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC) temporarily removed Hungary’s largest bank, OTP Bank, from a public list of “international sponsors of war”, hopes for the veto to be lifted have risen. The bank was first added to the list in early May. This provoked a prolonged stalemate in bloc decision-making and Budapest’ anger.

The list of “sponsors” is compiled by the NAPC. It includes companies that continue to do business in Russia, pay taxes to the central government and support the federal budget, which, according to the NAPC, is funding the war in Ukraine. Being added to this list entails serious reputational damage, but has no legal consequences.

After months of refusing to make any concessions, the NAPC decided to remove temporarily OTP Bank from the list of “war sponsors”, as well as five shipping companies from Greece. Companies will be removed finally from the “black list” only after they have demonstrated that they have ceased contacts with Russia. Until recently, the website of OTP Bank stated that it had 2.4 million clients in the country. (The Russian section of the site is no longer available). The NAPC said in a statement:

“This decision was made as a result of negotiations between the Agency’s representatives and representatives of companies and governments in these countries to terminate cooperation with the Russian Federation. The Agency hopes that this decision will lead to Hungary’s unblocking of €500 million of vital EU military aid for the Ukrainian people.”

However, the breakthrough failed to influence Hungary’s position. Its leadership claims that the modification is insufficient to meet its demands. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said over the weekend:

“No material change has happened. As long as OTP Bank is not removed from the list, Hungary will not participate in further EU funding for arms supplies to Ukraine.”

Borrell has proposed a new EU military aid package for Ukraine of “up to 5bn euros” to cover the country’s needs until 2024. According to him, this tranche would be part of the 20bn-euro programme he proposed in the summer.

However, the proposal could soon fall victim to a new veto. Robert Fico, who won the Slovak parliamentary election, holds pro-Russian views and has promised to cut off military aid to Ukraine.

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