Estonian FM condemns Hungary for blocking EU's €18b aid loan to Ukraine

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) condemned Hungary's decision to veto and thus block an €18 billion aid loan from the EU to Ukraine on Tuesday.

"The situation is incredibly bad, and that is unfortunate," Reinsalu told ERR on Friday. "The approach Hungary has chosen is deplorable, and Estonia will certainly unequivocally express as much."

Reinsalu was commenting on a meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) held in Bucharest Tuesday at which the EU was unable to approve the granting of a €18 billion loan package to Ukraine. The remaining 26 member states were unanimous in their support, however Hungary vetoed it, thus blocking the loan, as the decision requires unanimous support.

"It's clear that we have to find a solution according to the logic of the consensus principle," the Estonian minister continued. "We also have to find a solution in the immediate future for the ninth sanctions package [against Russia], and we also have to find a solution for the extension of existing sanctions."

These decisions likewise require a consensus at the EU level.

Hungary's opposition to the €18 billion aid loan to Ukraine has been linked to an unresolved dispute in the EU regarding the latter not paying out EU funding earmarked for Hungary as the European Commission believes Budapest is not fulfilling rule-of-law requirements.

The latter involves €7.5 billion from Cohesion Policy Funds as well as €5.8 billion Hungary was slated to receive from the EU's economic stimulus fund for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the final decision regarding which is in the hands of member states.

Responding to a reference to the fact that Hungary has yet to ratify Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO either, Reinsalu acknowledged that that may be connected to the payment of EU funding to Hungary as well.

"If no one is explicitly claiming this and I have no grounds to claim as much either if the state itself isn't saying so — but I think it can't be ruled out that that is also actually being circumscribed by those European Commission proposals to freeze Hungary's EU funding," he said.

Nonetheless, he still believes that they will reach a deal with Hungary at some point.

"I believe they'll [eventually] give their consent," Reinsalu said regarding Finland and Sweden's NATO accession process. "Just as I hope that some sort of solution will be found — albeit via a very lengthy grinding of teeth  — for the Ukraine support issue."

He noted that several EU ministerial meetings currently lie ahead, but Hungary-related issues will likely remain up to government leaders to resolve at the European Council to be held in Brussels on December 15-16.

"The European Commission's proposal to freeze the payment of EU funds to Hungary was supposed to be discussed at Tuesday's finance ministers' meeting, but that was postponed," the foreign minister said.

"The EU's justice ministers are meeting today, foreign ministers on Monday, Tuesday is the General Affairs Council, followed by the EU heads of government-level European Council, and I predict these issues are less likely to be resolved prior to the European Council, but it will likely be on the table at the European Council," he continued, expressing hope that some sort of solution will be achieved there.

"What's most crucial is that the €18 billion loan to Ukraine isn't left hanging — that we can convince Hungary to abandon this approach," Reinsalu said.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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