EU leaders, in a surprising turn of events, unanimously approved a €50 billion (£42 billion; $54 billion) aid package for Ukraine, overcoming Hungary’s previous opposition. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed gratitude for the financial support, anticipating the initial installment in March to enhance the nation’s economic resilience. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had initially raised objections at a December summit but relented this time.
The new funding is seen as crucial for Ukraine’s economic and financial stability, especially as the largest provider of military support, the US, faces delays in aid approval by Congress. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed hope that the EU’s commitment would encourage the United States to contribute its share.
The agreement was reached surprisingly quickly during the summit, defying expectations of prolonged discussions due to Orban’s reservations. In Kyiv, people welcomed the news, recognizing the importance of international support for their country. However, it’s essential to note that this funding is intended for non-frontline aspects, addressing the broader economic challenges posed by the conflict.
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The deal includes an annual review of the funding package, with the possibility of revisiting it in two years if deemed necessary, at the Council’s discretion. Orban’s push for an annual vote on the package was not accepted, reducing the risk of Hungary’s annual veto threat. The precondition for the aid is Ukraine’s commitment to upholding the rights of minorities, addressing concerns about the ethnic Hungarian minority in the country.
Additionally, the summit discussed artillery support for Ukraine, with the EU acknowledging a shortfall in the delivery of promised ammunition. European Council President Charles Michel affirmed the EU’s determination to provide the necessary equipment for Ukraine’s defense.
President Zelensky, in a video address to European leaders, praised the EU for proving its reliability and emphasized the signal this sends amid delays in US aid. The decision to open EU membership talks with Ukraine in December further solidifies the EU’s support, with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressing optimism about the progress. The announcement of this aid package follows the EU’s decision to withhold €20 billion in funds for Hungary, citing concerns about human rights and corruption in the country.
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