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Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for the EU summit in Brussels. Virginia Mayo/AP
War in Ukraine

Taoiseach expresses disappointment as Hungary's Viktor Orban blocks EU aid package for Ukraine

The veto came after leaders had voted to open negotiations on the war-torn country joining the EU.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Dec 2023

THE EUROPEAN UNION has failed to agree on a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine, even after deciding to open accession negotiations with the war-torn country.

The aid was vetoed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban yesterday, delivering another tough blow to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after he failed this week to persuade US politicians to approve an additional $61 billion, mainly to buy weapons from the US.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this morning, as the second day of the EU summit got underway in Brussels, that Orban’s position was “disappointing” and put the EU in a “difficult position”.

The proposed financial package could not be endorsed after Orban vetoed both the extra money and a review of the EU budget having warned the summit that forcing a decision on the Ukraine issues could destroy EU unity.

Orban said that his opposition remained steadfast, but that he decided not to use his veto because the 26 other nations were arguing so strongly in favour. Under EU rules, an abstention does not prevent a decision from being adopted.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “In fairness to Prime Minister Orban, he made his case, made it very strongly. He disagrees with this decision and he’s not changing his opinion in that sense, but essentially decided not to use the veto power.

“I respect the fact that he didn’t do that, because it would have put us in a very difficult position as a European Union.”

Varadkar said members states will “regroup next year and come to an agreement then”. 

However, he also noted that the money could be “provided on a bilateral basis”.

“There are workarounds, but it’s not where we want to be, so we think it’s still possible to come to an agreement with the EU 27 and we’ll try to get to that space next year.”

Varadkar said that discussions went on until 2am but added that “it’s not always possible to solve everything in one meeting and you have to have a second one”. 

Varadkar also noted that discussions were on an “upward revision of the budget”.

“The existing budget stands and money will still continue to flow to Ukraine through at the first few months of next year at the very least, but the extra money of €50 billion hasn’t been agreed.

“So we have to find agreement on that in the new year or find a workaround whereby the 26 member states can do what we think is right.”


The start of accession talks was a momentous moment and stunning reversal for a country at war that had struggled to find the backing for its membership aspirations and long faced obstinate opposition from Orban.

Hungary’s leader decided not to veto the accession talks, but then blocked the aid package.

“I can inform you that 26 leaders agreed on the (budget negotiation),” European Council president Charles Michel said.

“I should be very precise. One leader, Sweden, needs to consult its parliament, which is in line with the usual procedure for this country, and one leader couldn’t agree.”

The decisions required unanimity among the EU’s members.

Michel, who was chairing the Brussels summit, called the start of accession talks “a clear signal of hope for their people and our continent”.

He said leaders would reconvene in January.

Although the process between opening negotiations and Ukraine finally becoming a member could take many years, Zelenskyy welcomed the agreement as “a victory for Ukraine. A victory for all of Europe”.

“History is made by those who don’t get tired of fighting for freedom,” he said.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called the opening of membership discussions a black eye for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“It is a very clear message to Moscow. Us Europeans, we don’t let go of Ukraine,” he said.

He said he thought Orban “didn’t use his veto because he realised that it would be indefensible”.

EU leaders also decided to open membership negotiations with Ukraine’s neighbour Moldova.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan welcomed “the EU’s historic decision to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, a crucial step toward fulfilling their Euro-Atlantic aspirations”.

Additional reporting by Diarmuid Pepper

Press Association