- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán regularly drives the EU to the edge, with European diplomats now in panic that his hostility to Ukraine is about to finally tip the bloc over the precipice, Politico wrote on Dec. 1, saying that this month’s summit will be a decisive test of how far Budapest will go to thwart EU support for Kyiv.
A brewing political crisis is set to boil over at a summit in mid-December when EU leaders are due to make a historic decision on bringing Ukraine into the 27-nation club and seal a key budget deal to throw a €50 billion lifeline to Kyiv’s flagging wartime economy. The meeting is supposed to signal to the United States that, despite the political distraction over the war in the Middle East, the EU is fully committed to Ukraine.
Those hopes look likely to be knocked off course by Orbán, a strongman leader who cultivates close ties with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and is widely seen as having undermined democracy and rule of law at home. He is demanding the whole political and financial process should be put on ice until leaders agree to a wholesale review of EU’s Ukraine policy.
That presents EU leaders with a massive challenge. Although Hungary only represents 2 percent of the EU population, Orbán can hold the bloc hostage as it is supposed to act unanimously on big strategic decisions — and they hardly come bigger than initiating accession talks with Ukraine.
Orban has been the most vocal opponent of sanctions against Russia ever since Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. But this time is different. “We are heading toward a major crisis,” one EU official said, while another senior EU diplomat warned this could become “one of the most difficult European Councils.”
European Council President Charles Michel, whose job it is to forge deals between the 27 leaders, is in search of a compromise. He travelled to Budapest earlier this week for an intense two hour discussion with Orbán. While the meeting did not reach an immediate breakthrough, it was useful to understand Orbán’s concerns, another EU official said.
Some EU diplomats interpret Orbán’s threats as a strategy to raise pressure on the European Commission, which is holding back €13 billion in EU funds for Hungary over concerns that the country is falling foul of the EU’s standards on rule of law.
Others however said it’s a mistake not to look beyond the immediate transactional tactics. Orbán has long been questioning the EU’s Ukraine strategy, but was largely ignored or portrayed as a puppet for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There is no one left to talk sense into Orbán, He is now undermining the EU from within,” the third EU official said. “Orbán plays the long game. With [Dutch far-right politician Geert] Wilders, one or two more far-right leaders in Europe and a potential return of Trump he could soon be less isolated than we all think.”
Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine