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EUROPEAN Union leaders sealed a deal today to provide a new €50 billion (£42bn) support package for Ukraine’s war-ravaged economy after Hungary dropped threats to use its veto.
European Council president Charles Michel used a social media post to announce the agreement, which was reached in the first hour of a summit he was chairing in Brussels.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed a “very important” decision. His country could receive the first tranche of funds as soon as March, once the European Parliament has endorsed the deal.
There was surprise that the veto was lifted so quickly. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had raised strong objections to the aid package since December and blocked its adoption. His hard-right government has been in a dispute with the European Commission over Hungary’s drift toward authoritarianism and has had some of its own funding withheld as a result.
The EU’s 26 other leaders had agreed in December that the package would run from 2024-27, but being part of a review of the bloc’s current seven-year budget, it required unanimous approval.
It remains unclear whether Mr Orban won any concessions on unfreezing EU funds.
He cast the decision as a victory, saying in a video on Facebook that a review mechanism attached to the funding package would “guarantee the rational use of the funds” and that EU money being denied to Budapest wouldn’t be spent on Ukraine.
On the way into their meeting, some leaders lashed out at Mr Orban, accusing him of blackmail and playing political games.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, alluding to concern that public support for pouring more money into Ukraine has started to wane, said: “There is no problem with the so-called Ukraine fatigue issue. We have Orban fatigue now in Brussels.
“I can’t understand. I can’t accept this very strange and very egoistic game of Viktor Orban.”
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