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The European Union’s executive body has delayed releasing billions in development aid to Hungary amidst ongoing tensions between the EU and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over Ukraine support.
On Wednesday, the European Commission revealed its decision to withhold 10 billion euros ($10.8 billion) previously frozen due to concerns about Orban’s undermining of “democratic norms.” The Commission specified that Hungary must first publish its latest judicial reforms in the national official journal, which is a prerequisite for enacting the reforms and thereby enabling the unfreezing of funds.
This decision comes against the backdrop of expectations that the EU might release the funds to influence Orban, who has threatened to veto Ukraine’s potential EU membership. However, following a demand by an Orban aide for the release of up to 30 billion euros ($32.4bn) in aid, the situation escalated.
Orban, during a session of Hungary’s National Assembly on Wednesday, announced his intention to block discussions on Ukraine’s EU membership at an upcoming Brussels summit. He argued that Ukraine’s inclusion in the EU is premature and would lead to unforeseeable outcomes, stating, “We are interested in a peaceful and prosperous Ukraine, but this requires the establishment of peace as quickly as possible and a deliberate deepening of the strategic partnership.” Orban’s decision is critical as Ukraine’s membership bid requires unanimous approval from all 27 EU nations.