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European Union agrees on new $54bn aid package for Ukraine

Hungary previously vetoed the measure and criticised the bloc’s military support for Ukraine.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the meeting in Brussels, Belgium, February 1, 2024 [Olivier Hoslet/EPA]Published On 1 Feb 20241 Feb 2024

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All 27 European Union countries have agreed on an additional 50-billion-euro ($54bn) aid package for Ukraine, despite threats from Hungary to veto the move.

“We have a deal,” European Council President Charles Michel said in a post on X.

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Michel said the move “locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine” and demonstrates that the “EU is taking leadership and responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake“.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders, which once again proves strong EU unity.”

The EU’s approval of the aid package would strengthen long-term economic and financial stability as the war with Russia approaches its third year, he posted on X.

Ukraine expects to receive the first tranche of 4.5 billion euros ($4.9bn) from the EU facility in March, the Ministry of Economy said on Thursday.

Welcoming the decision, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the bloc “one more time show their solidarity and unity in the actions to Ukrainian people to withstand the war”.

Kyiv has become increasingly desperate to secure funding from Western countries in recent months.

EU funding is especially significant as a similar aid package from the United States continues to be held up because of internal political disputes and further complicated by the presidential election in November.

“US funding to Ukraine became a hostage of domestic US politics,” Hlib Vyshlinsky, executive director of the Centre for Economic Strategy, told Al Jazeera.

“It was very hard for Ukraine to do anything with it in a year of presidential elections in the United States.”

In December, the bloc agreed on the latest aid package, which would run through to 2027, and decided to make Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, which Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban reluctantly accepted.

But Orban, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was angry at the European Commission’s decision to block his government’s access to some of the bloc’s funds, which they did over concerns about possible threats to the EU budget by Hungary.

In response to the lack of access, Orban vetoed several issues at the EU.

“I don’t want to use the word blackmail, but I don’t know what other better word” might fit, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told reporters as she arrived for the meeting.

“Hungary needs Europe,” she said, adding, “He should also look into what it is in it for Hungary, being in Europe.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies