Hungary's prime minister has said that he will continue to oppose a European Union plan to provide an 18-billion-euro ($19-billion) aid package to Ukraine in 2023.
In an interview on state radio on Friday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledged that Ukraine needs help to pay for the functioning of essential services but emphasized that he would block the EU's plan of joint borrowing to fund the package.
“The question is how to help Ukraine,” Orban said. “One proposal says that we should use the budgets of the EU member states to take out new loans together and use that money to give to Ukraine. We are not in favour of this because we do not want the European Union to become a community of indebted states instead of a community of cooperating member states.”
Orban proposed that each of the EU's 27 member states draw from its own budget to provide assistance to Ukraine through bilateral agreements.
“We will not accept the other plan, we will not consent to it, without us it will not come into being,” he said.
Orban earlier indicated that Hungary would be willing to provide Ukraine with 60-70 billion forints ($152-$178 million) from its own budget on bilateral terms — an amount he said would not fundamentally harm Hungary’s national interests.
The aid package to Ukraine is one of several top priorities for the EU that Hungary's government has blocked or delayed in recent months. Some officials in Brussels suspect that Budapest is using its veto of the aid package, as well as its opposition to the EU signing onto a minimum corporate tax rate, as leverage to pressure the bloc to release billions in funding it has withheld from Hungary over rule of law and corruption concerns.
On Wednesday, the EU's executive arm said it would keep recommending a freeze on 7.5 billion euros ($7.9 billion) in funding to Hungary until it carries out a raft of reforms, including shoring up judicial independence, protecting EU funds from corruption and increasing legislative transparency.