The Irish Times view on the EU’s deal with Orban: €50 billion in vital funding freed for Ukraine

The commitment confirms the EU’s solidarity and is crucial given the Biden administration’s failure to win congressional support for its own $60 billion package

Unanimous agreement reached at the start of the emergency EU summit on Thursday on the union’s €50 billion multi-year economic aid package for Ukraine comes as a welcome relief. Ukraine needs the money badly and the commitment re-confirms the EU’s solidarity in the long term. Council President Charles Michel said it “locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine”. The aid is particularly crucial given the Biden administration’s failure to win congressional support for its own $60 billion package.

After a prolonged decision-making gridlock, characterised by many leaders as blackmail, the single recalcitrant leader, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán, was prevailed on to lift his veto. The latter had blocked the Ukraine vote in what was widely understood to be an attempt to leverage concessions over €20 billion in EU cash withheld from Hungary for repeated breaches of union rule-of-law standards.

Member states are only supposed to use the veto where issues of vital national interest are threatened – Hungary’s stonewalling was seen as bad faith on its part and a threat not only to the aid but to the EU’s capacity for decision-making.

A deal was brokered in morning discussions between Orban and three of the union’s most powerful leaders, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, French president Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni. The latter’s politics are closest to Orban, and her pressure, along with the silence of erstwhile supporters Poland and Slovakia, may have convinced the Hungarian leader that this was a battle he could not win. His foot-dragging on other issues is likely to continue.


In what appears to be the only significant public concession to Orban, the leaders agreed to hold an annual debate on the implementation of the aid and allowed for the possibility for a review in two years, if all member states agree.

The European Parliament must now sign off on the increase to the EU’s budget which includes the €50 billion for Ukraine. They should do so without delay.