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Estonian foreign minister: Ukraine will get €50 billion EU aid in any case

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

According to Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200), Ukraine will receive €50 billion in aid from the EU irrespective of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's move to block the funds.

Tsahkna said that there are different ways of providing the aid promised to Ukraine. "It has been agreed that we can provide the finances, so that Ukraine actually gets its money. The decision on the big €50 billion fund, I think we will get done by the end of this year or early next year. So, in fact Ukraine will get the money. We'll find a way, in any case, for the other 26 countries to agree on this financing and it will be done formally in a different way, through different channels," Tsahkna said.

"The real issue is that this money is all on top of what we normally contribute to the European Union budget and this money still comes out of the pockets of the net contributors. The separate fund for military aid comes from the additional contributions of all the member states. We have taken this into account, our budgets have also already been planned to account for this money over the coming years, and we will provide this money given in any case," he added.

While the €50 billion in aid was blocked by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Friday, he did not veto the decision to open EU accession talks with Ukraine, leaving the room during the vote instead. Tsahkna admitted that the decision to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova was in the balance, but a lot of pressure was put on Orbán.

"I think a few hours before, nobody was sure what Orbán would do or what to do with him. The pressure on Orbán was tremendous, both bilaterally and collectively, and not only from the EU member states, but also from all the other allies," said Tsahkna.

The Estonian foreign minister added that in his view, failure to give this message that Ukraine is welcome in the European Union, could have turned the war in a negative direction.

"It was a historic moment, not only for Ukraine but also for Moldova," he said.

Tsahkna stressed that while the pressure on Orbán was collective, there were certainly some kind of agreements made with him. However, he did not specify what they were.

On Wednesday, following a last-minute concession, the European Commission agreed to release €10 billion in aid to Hungary, which had been frozen due to disputes over rule of law in the country. On Friday, Orban demanded that the European Union release those frozen funds to Hungary before it would consider not vetoing Ukraine's aid package.

According to Tsahkna, the EU believes the cheapest way to make a deal with Orbán is with money.

"He may not end up getting the €10 billion, as there are a lot of strings attached. Our common understanding was that money is the cheapest way to make a deal. The aim was to make this historic decision in any case. We are still talking about the future of Europe and of Ukraine," Tsahkna said.

"And these agreements are not of the kind whereby we give you the money and you vote this way. After all, Orbán has also blocked EU budget talks before. However, inevitably, there is nothing that can be done, because at one point there are so many fundamental and important issues at stake, if we are talking about European security in real terms for example, and then on the other hand, there is a sum of money. Even though they are not related, to some extent they are. This is a responsibility that national leaders feel," he said.

Orbán has said he could veto Ukraine's accession talks at any time, with Tsahkna adding that there are around 75 potential opportunities in which to do so throughout the whole process.

"If the limit is finally reached, as Orbán may have feared, a mechanism could be triggered whereby a member state is deprived of its voting rights. It exists in theory on paper, however, no one has ever used it. It is very complicated. But if a country does not want to be in Europe any more, if it, in some way, undermines the foundations of our security, our very existence, then there is that possibility. And I think that if Orbán had not left [the room] at the time of the vote, or in other words, if he had not been able to veto it, then that process may have been set in motion, because the mood around the table was precisely that what is at stake is the security of Europe more broadly," Tsahkna said.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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