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EU states greenlight giving Hungary nearly 1 bn euros

Published December 09,2023

EU finance ministers on Friday approved giving 920 million euros ($990 million) to Hungary as an advance on its part of post-Covid pandemic recovery funds amid tensions between EU leaders and Hungarian premier Viktor Orban.

The EU executive last month approved Hungary's plan to spend 10.4 billion euros set aside for it from the post-coronavirus recovery and resilience fund -- but the disbursement of the bulk of it was suspended until Budapest meets rule-of-law conditions.

The nearly one-billion-euro advance, however, was not subject to those conditions, a European Commission spokeswoman, Veerle Nuyts, had said on November 23.

The green light comes after Orban was accused of being ready to veto further EU aid to Ukraine and stall Kyiv's push for membership talks during an EU summit next week in order to unblock the frozen funds.

EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels approved 13 member states' amended national plans including Hungary's plan of 10.4 billion euros including 6.5 billion euros in grants and 3.9 billion euros in loans.

Four countries abstained from greenlighting Hungary's plan: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Netherlands, an EU source said.

The bloc could unlock more frozen funds to Hungary after steps taken by Budapest to strengthen the judiciary's independence, an EU official said last week.

With concerns Orban could torpedo the chance to take key decisions concerning Ukraine at the EU summit on December 14-15, senior European figures have met with the strongman.

EU chief Charles Michel met Orban on November 27 to ease tensions, while French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the Hungarian leader in Paris on Thursday.

Macron intervened in his position as one of Europe's most powerful figures in a bid to break the deadlock over Ukraine.