European Council on the EU budget and funds for Ukraine, how much does Hungary’s veto weigh

Tomorrow, Thursday 1 February, the extraordinary European Council will meet on the review of the common budget and the 50 billion emergency financing for Ukraine (THE SPECIAL ON THE WAR). Unanimity is needed for the approval and everything once again depends on Hungary’s decision, after Orban’s vetoes. In recent days, the hypothesis of isolating the Hungarian leader by moving forward with the procedure provided for in Article 7, which punishes violations of the rule of law and can lead to the loss of the right to vote in the Council, had been leaked. A few hours before the start of the summit, the situation continues to remain difficult. At the end of the last meeting of the ambassadors of the 27, a new gray smoke arrived. The meeting of the Permanent Representatives (Coreper II), we learn from European sources, has been adjourned to today at 8.30. Negotiations with Hungary continue, at a high level, while Budapest has explained that it is ready to work constructively and find an acceptable solution at 27 within the budget review. Member States have reiterated their willingness to find a 27-member solution and most have underlined the need for a 26-member solution to also be viable. During the last meeting, the Belgian presidency presented a limited package of possible conclusions on military support to Ukraine to the ambassadors of the 27.

EU seeks solution

In the last few hours, European diplomatic sources explain that it has been reiterated that it is an “absolute priority” to reach a solution for the revision of the multi-year budget, including financial assistance to Ukraine. Hungary, we learn, has confirmed that “intense consultations” are underway in Brussels and Budapest for a solution that is acceptable to all. Negotiations are continuing in recent days between the European chancelleries and the Sherpas of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

The aim is to bend Orban over the funds in Kiev

The European Council is called upon to break the impasse on emergency funding for Ukraine. Brussels has also imagined hitting Orban in the wallet – blocking further funds in Budapest – if he persists in vetoing the 50 billion in aid through the review of the community budget. The hypothesis – relaunched by Financial Times – sparked the anger of Hungarians, who openly accused the EU of wanting to brandish the weapon of “blackmail”. The strategy is contained in a document drawn up by the Council Secretariat. “In the event of no agreement at the summit” the other leaders “will publicly declare that, in light of the unconstructive behavior of the Hungarian prime minister, the payment of further EU funds cannot be imagined”. “European and international financial markets and businesses may be less interested in investing in Hungary – notes the document – and all this could quickly trigger a further increase in the cost of financing the public deficit and a decline in the currency”. “Hungary does not give in to blackmail!”, the Minister of European Affairs, János Bóka, thundered on X. “The document drawn up by Brussels bureaucrats merely confirms what the Hungarian government has long maintained: access to EU funds is used for political blackmail.” On the other hand, Orban’s intransigent position is causing exasperation in various capitals and for days there have been rumors of possible “strong measures” against the Hungarian prime minister, who was first accused of using the “bazaar” logic with the other 26. A high However, a European official threw water on the fire, describing the document as “a factual background note” from the Secretariat “which does not reflect the state of the ongoing negotiations” between Hungary and the EU. In short, no ‘Michel plan’ against Budapest. “The objective is to find an agreement among 27 at the extraordinary summit”, adds the source.

EU-Hungary clash

“Budapest – assures Balázs Orbán, political director of the Hungarian prime minister – sent a new proposal on Saturday and is now open to using the community budget for aid to Ukraine and even to the issuance of common debt to finance them on an agreement – he writes – that more caveats are added to give us the opportunity to change our minds later.” But this is exactly what the EU wants to avoid since guarantees of stability for Kiev are of primary importance and the ongoing debate in the American Congress on military support is a demonstration of this. The vast majority of European leaders, in fact, do not want to hand Budapest an annual veto to be spent on other tables, both for reasons of method and merit. But it’s a long way from here to reaching the unanimity necessary for muscular solutions, such as the use of Article 7 of the treaties, which would deprive Hungary of the right to vote in the Council. “We must not respond to blackmail with more blackmail but speak all together, with one voice”, underlined the Belgian Foreign Minister, Hadja Lahbib.

Zelensky will speak via video at EU summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to be a guest of the extraordinary European Council via video link. The meeting will open in the morning around ten with the intervention of the President of the European Chamber Roberta Metsola and, at the moment, she has only one major dossier on the agenda, the review of the multi-year budget with the 50 billion financial assistance for Ukraine. Barring last-minute program changes, the arrival of the leaders – or at least most of them – in Brussels is scheduled for the afternoon of January 31, on the occasion of the commemoration of Jacque Delors organized by the Commission. Immediately afterwards the leaders will be gathered for an informal working dinner.