Photo: Efrem Lukatsky Associated Press A Ukrainian soldier prepares to fire a cannon at Russian positions in the Bakhmut region on January 26.
Anne-Laure Mondesert – Agence France-Presse in Brussels
European leaders reached an agreement Thursday on 50 billion euros (C$73 billion) in aid for Ukraine, previously blocked by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an announcement immediately hailed by Kiev as a “common victory” over Russia.
The suspense was ultimately short-lived during this extraordinary summit.
“Unit. All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion to support Ukraine within the EU budget,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote on X ( ex-Twitter) from the start of the meeting.
“This agreement guarantees stable, predictable and long-term financing for Ukraine,” welcomed the Belgian official.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed a “good day for Europe” and Kiev praised the European Union’s “contribution” to a “victory common” on Russia.
The agreement is proof of the “strong unity” of the Twenty-Seven, insisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,
The compromise reached provides for the possibility of convening a summit of heads of state or government within two years to examine the implementation of this multiannual European budget.
The summit was preceded by a meeting around Viktor Orban bringing together French President Emmanuel Macron, the head of the Italian government Giorgia Meloni, as well as the President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the President of European Council Charles Michel.
“We need an agreement at 27,” insisted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz upon his arrival.
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Behind Ukraine “in the long term”
European aid intended for Ukraine (33 billion in loans and 17 billion in grants) is included in an extension to the EU budget until 2027.
Support that kyiv desperately needs to keep its economy afloat, while an American aid package is blocked in Congress.
“This is an important signal to Ukraine that the EU stands behind you in the long term, until victory,” responded Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
The Hungarian leader, alone among the Twenty-Seven to have maintained close ties with Moscow after the launch of the invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago, had aroused the anger and exasperation of his counterparts gathered in last December by opposing this financial support.
He was accused in Brussels of blackmailing the EU to obtain the release of European funds intended for his country but frozen due to the breaches of the rule of law criticized in Budapest.
Hungary demanded the ability to carry out an annual review of this support, with a unanimous vote, but the other EU countries did not want to give it such blocking opportunities.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk echoed growing impatience upon arriving in Brussels. “We are not tired of Ukraine, we are tired of Orban,” he declared, denouncing the latter’s “strange and selfish game”.
The summit is being held against a backdrop of strong mobilization from the agricultural world: some 1,300 tractors converged in a concert of horns all the way to Brussels. Protesters faced police outside the European Parliament, where tires were set on fire and a statue toppled, near the summit venue.
During the December summit, the opening of accession negotiations with Ukraine, which Viktor Orban also opposed, was possible because the latter had agreed to leave the room at the time where the decision was made.
On the eve of this meeting, the Commission agreed to release some €10 billion in previously frozen funds intended for Hungary, highlighting reforms undertaken by Budapest to improve the independence of its judges.
But more than 20 billion in European funds are still being withheld, due to concerns from Brussels relating in particular to respect for the rights of LGBT + people, academic freedom and the right to asylum in the country.
Alongside the budgetary issue, the summit must also address the increase in military aid to Ukraine.