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Hungary to block EU’s €1.5 billion aid for Ukraine, claiming “witch-hunt” against Hungarian companies

Hungarian FM says Hungary will block a 1.5 billion euro EU aid package to Ukraine, claiming an alleged ‘witch-hunt’ against Hungarian companies in Ukraine.
Péter Szijjártó speaking in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 19 June 2023. Credit: Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (KKM)
Hungary to block EU’s €1.5 billion aid for Ukraine, claiming “witch-hunt” against Hungarian companies

During the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 22 April, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó stated that Hungary would not approve sending the 1.5 billion euros in EU aid to Ukraine.

Hungary stands out as Moscow’s strongest ally among EU nations, having wielded his veto power to block EU aid for Ukraine. The country has refused to send weapons to Kyiv and remains the sole EU state maintaining ties with the Kremlin since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As an excuse to block the aid, the Hungarian minister claimed that Ukraine allegedly employs discriminatory practices against Hungarian companies and emphasized that until the situation changes, Hungary will withhold the aid, according to the Hungarian news outlet Index, citing the ministry’s press release.

The Hungarian Foreign Minister claimed that an alleged “witch-hunt” against Hungarian companies in Ukraine has not ceased with the OTP bank case, as Ukraine was ostensibly going to revoke the local marketing authorizations of 14 pharmaceuticals by Hungarian company Richter.

Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention previously labeled Hungary’s OTP Bank as an “international sponsor of war” since it continued doing business in Russia. In response, Hungary threatened to block aid for Ukraine unless the OTP bank was removed from the list. In October 2023, the bank was removed from this list at the request of Hungary, which in return promised to unblock the allocation of €500 million from the EU military fund.

Richter has not breached any rules or sanctions in Ukraine … conducting operations in Russia does not violate any laws. The pharmaceutical industry is not in any way under sanctions,” Szijjártó claimed, according to The Budapest Times.

During a press conference on the sidelines of the EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 22 April, Peter Szijjarto claimed that the bloc was “preparing for a world war” and putting enormous pressure on Hungary. He mentioned that besides the 500 million in aid to Ukraine, which Hungary blocked, the EU was planning to fund member states’ weapon deliveries with another 1.5 billion euros from the European Peace Facility.

Hungary routinely blocks EU’s Ukraine aid to get benefits for itself

The European Peace Facility (EPF), established in March 2021, funds military aid and EU military missions abroad. As of March 2024, €11.1 billion of EPF funding has been committed for military support to Ukraine.

Initially, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán vetoed the adoption of a European Union budget amendment to allocate €50 billion to the Peace Facility in December.

Aid was originally set to be approved at an EU summit in December, but Hungary vetoed the deal until a compromise could be reached. In February, after weeks of negotiations, the 27 members of the European Union agreed to provide €50 billion in financial assistance to Ukraine from 2024 to 2027, making minor compromises with Orbán, including provisions for annual reports, leader-level debates, and fair evaluation of the rule of law in Hungary.

Then Hungary blocked a €500 million tranche from the European Peace Facility for Ukraine due to Ukraine’s listing of Hungary’s OTP Bank as an international war sponsor. While Ukraine removed the OTP Bank from the list, Hungary sought legal assurances, prolonging EU discussions on the aid package.

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