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European Union approves $54 billion aid for Ukraine as Hungary drops opposition

From left, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and European Council President Charles Michel arrive to a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday. "Ukraine is our priority and this agreement will give the credibility, legitimacy and the predictability that is expected from us," Metsola said.
Geert Vanden Wijngaert
/
AP
From left, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and European Council President Charles Michel arrive to a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday. "Ukraine is our priority and this agreement will give the credibility, legitimacy and the predictability that is expected from us," Metsola said.

PARIS — The European Union has reached a deal to include 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in funding for Ukraine in its budget for the next three years. The agreement came surprisingly quickly after Hungary, long opposed, reversed its stance.

The money will help Kyiv keep its economy running in 2024 and sustain essential services such as health care, social protection and pensions.

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola hailed the agreement in a press conference just hours after it was reached. She said the unanimous approval by the EU's 27 member nations meant keeping the funding within the EU budget, which gives it the added stamp of approval of the European parliament.

"Ukraine is our priority and this agreement will give the credibility, legitimacy and the predictability that is expected from us," she said. "Because Ukraine's security is Europe's security."

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán scuttled a similar EU budget summit in December after vetoing the funding for Ukraine.

EU leaders arrived in Brussels Thursday ready to spend the day doing battle with Orbán. Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas expressed her frustration over the standoff with Hungary ahead of the meeting.

"I mean, Viktor [Orbán] definitely wants to be the center of attention every time we are here," she said, "but it shouldn't be like this. I don't want to use the word blackmail, but I don't know another better word."

Poland's new prime minister, Donald Tusk, said Europe doesn't have Ukraine fatigue, it has Viktor Orbán fatigue.

"I can't understand," he said. "I can't accept this very strange and very egoistic game of Viktor Orbán."

Speaking after the deal, Metsola admitted it would have been better if there weren't conditions attached to Hungary's approval of the funding. Orbán had said earlier he would drop his opposition if the EU voted annually on the aid to Ukraine.

Metsola did not elaborate on what the conditions were. She only said the EU had been keeping its Ukrainian friends on tenterhooks for too long, and called it "a good day for Europe."

Orbán has been critical of Western funding of Ukraine following Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022, arguing it prolongs the war. Orbán has also said he does not believe Russia presents a security threat to Europe.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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