EU leaders face off against Orban over Ukraine aid

EU leaders will grapple with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a crunch summit meeting Thursday to try to overcome his veto on 50 billion euros in financial aid for Ukraine.

Orban — Russia's closest ally in the EU — sparked fury from his 26 counterparts in the bloc by thwarting a deal in December to keep the desperately needed funds flowing to Kiev nearly two years into Moscow's invasion.

The Hungarian populist has been accused of holding Ukraine's future hostage in a bid to blackmail Brussels into releasing billions of euros in frozen EU funds for Budapest.

EU officials have been trying to thrash out a compromise with Hungary to get agreement on the four-year package for Ukraine as part of a broader overhaul of the bloc's budget.

Other leaders have rejected a proposal from Budapest that Orban could approve the aid if he gets the chance to veto it again each year — and are instead offering him only an annual debate on the issue.

If they cannot convince Orban to drop his opposition, EU leaders have pledged to club together as 26 to keep aid flowing for Ukraine's government to keep paying salaries and services.

But with Kiev facing possible budget shortfalls by spring and doubts over support from the United States, that option would take more time to put in place and likely cover aid for only one year.

"One way or another, we will find some solution, with or without Orban, to support Ukraine," Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said.

Facing down Orban, a veteran of numerous run-ins with Brussels, will not be easy and the political arm-wrestling in the EU capital is set to last for hours.

The Hungarian leader struck a combative note as he arrived in Brussels on Wednesday evening, posting a photo...

Continue reading on: