European Leaders Unite to Salvage Support for Ukraine Amid Orbán’s Opposition

In the face of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s steadfast opposition, European leaders are intensifying their diplomatic efforts to salvage support for Ukraine. This comes as Ukraine finds itself in an increasingly precarious situation following Russia’s invasion and the subsequent blockage of aid from the United States.

With a crucial European summit on the horizon, leaders are determined to prevent any cracks in the unity of the European Union (EU) that could potentially benefit Russia and undermine the EU’s geopolitical power. However, Orbán, known for his strong ties to the Kremlin, shows no signs of changing his course.

The Stakes for Ukraine

EU’s support is crucial for Ukraine’s survival, particularly as the country faces economic hardship and political instability caused by the ongoing conflict with Russia. A new special aid package worth 50 billion euros is on the line, which Kiev desperately needs to stay afloat.

Additionally, Ukraine seeks the EU’s endorsement for negotiations on accession, a move that would provide a much-needed moral boost. However, with Orbán’s opposition, the path forward remains uncertain.

Diplomatic Offensives

European leaders, including Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and French President Emmanuel Macron, have embarked on a diplomatic offensive to sway Orbán’s stance. Sánchez, who currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, has engaged in conversations with both Orbán and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Macron, in an unusual move, invited Orbán to the Élysée Palace for a dinner, hoping to persuade him to reconsider his position.

Despite their behind-the-scenes maneuvering, leaders have yet to see any concrete results. Orbán has made it clear that he does not want the issue of Ukraine’s accession to the EU to be discussed at the December European Council, citing a lack of unity among member states. However, he has not mentioned his stance on the EU’s economic package for Ukraine.

Orbán’s Motives

European leaders are eager to understand Orbán’s true intentions. They are unsure whether he is seeking financial incentives in exchange for lifting his veto or if his opposition is rooted in a deeper philosophical position.

Orbán has a history of using blackmail as a means of influencing the EU. Notably, he demands the release of over 27 billion euros in frozen European funds, withheld due to Hungary’s failure to meet certain rule-of-law requirements.

Some believe that Orbán may view the lifting of his veto as a quid pro quo for unlocking these funds. With Hungary facing significant financial difficulties, such a move could alleviate some of the strain on the country’s economy.

EU’s Dilemma

Hopes for the EU’s economic support for Ukraine remain in jeopardy as Orbán’s veto blocks a crucial 50-billion-euro aid package. This package, part of a broader multi-year EU budget currently under negotiation, includes both grants and loans.

While the European Council, the European Commission, and 26 member states are in favor of the economic plan for Ukraine, Hungary remains the sole holdout. Orbán’s opposition puts Ukraine at risk of collapsing under the strain of prolonged invasion and economic turmoil.

Exploring Alternatives

As tensions rise, European leaders are considering alternative strategies to ensure Ukraine receives the support it desperately needs. One option is to move forward with the economic package without Hungary’s support, involving only the 26 countries in favor.

Another possibility is to explore bilateral agreements or shorter-term funding solutions to prevent a complete collapse of the country. However, the European Council remains adamant about opening negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova, emphasizing the importance of a firm commitment to their accession.

Macron’s Role

French President Emmanuel Macron believes he can convince Orbán to lift the veto and support Ukraine. France considers it crucial to send a strong signal of commitment to Ukraine, particularly in light of growing uncertainty surrounding support from the United States.

Despite President Joe Biden’s calls for aid to Ukraine, the Senate has blocked billions of dollars in assistance. Macron aims to highlight the historical responsibility Orbán holds in determining the future of Europe, its security, and its geopolitical position.

Dinner at the Élysée Palace

The dinner meeting between Macron and Orbán at the Élysée Palace serves as an opportunity for candid conversations between two leaders who have a history of airing their differences publicly and privately. Both leaders are among the most seasoned members of the European Council, and Orbán’s visit to Paris is seen as a gesture of recognition of Macron’s authority within the EU.

Conclusion

As the European summit approaches, European leaders are making a concerted effort to sway Orbán’s position and secure support for Ukraine. The outcome of these diplomatic efforts remains uncertain, but the stakes are high for Ukraine’s survival and the unity of the EU.

Orbán’s opposition presents a significant challenge, and leaders must find a way to bridge the divide and ensure Ukraine’s economic stability and geopolitical future.

European Union’s response to the Ukrainian crisis will not only shape the fate of Ukraine but also test the bloc’s ability to act decisively and maintain its position as a global power. The diplomatic offensive against Orbán’s opposition demonstrates the EU’s commitment to supporting its member states in times of crisis and upholding its values of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.