The release of €500 million in European Peace Facility (EPF) funding for Ukraine has been blocked by Hungary, according to Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy commissioner. Borrell made the announcement during a press conference after an EU ministerial meeting in Toledo, Spain. He expressed hope that the issue would be resolved in the coming weeks but acknowledged that the problem has not yet been solved.
The disagreement between Budapest and Brussels stems from Hungary’s objection to Kiev designating a major Hungarian bank as a ‘war sponsor’. As a result, Budapest has blocked the EPF funds for several months. The EPF was established in March 2021 as a way for the EU to provide weapons and ammunition to Ukraine outside of normal budgetary procedures.
In a meeting of EU defense ministers, Borrell emphasized the necessity of training more Ukrainian troops at a faster pace. He revealed that nearly 40,000 conscripts would undergo training at various EU sites throughout the year, including at the Spanish military academy in Toledo. The aim is to enhance the capacity of the Ukrainian armed forces.
The issue of supporting Ukraine was a significant topic during the EU ministerial meeting. Borrell stressed the need for the EU to provide predictable and sustainable support to Ukraine both financially and in other ways. He proposed the creation of a new Ukraine Assistance Fund covering the period from 2024 to 2027. Borrell hopes that the European Commission will reach an agreement on this fund by the end of the year. The fund is expected to provide approximately €5 billion annually, making a total commitment of €20 billion over the next four years.
However, Hungary remains skeptical of the EU’s policies towards Ukraine. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, speaking at a forum in Slovenia, described the EU as being in a “very bad shape” due to the conflict in Ukraine. He believes that the EU’s commitment to arming Ukraine has hindered efforts to broker peace. Additionally, Szijjarto highlighted the negative impact of the Russian embargo on the EU’s energy, security, and economic prosperity.
The disagreement between Hungary and the EU underscores the challenges the bloc faces in addressing conflicts on its eastern borders. The withholding of EPF funds not only affects Ukraine’s ability to strengthen its defense capabilities but also raises questions about the EU’s ability to respond effectively to security threats in the region.
The EU’s relationship with Ukraine and its approach to the conflict will continue to be a contentious issue within the bloc. Balancing the interests of member states, such as Hungary, with the EU’s broader objectives of supporting Ukraine and ensuring regional stability presents a complex challenge for European policymakers.
Overall, the EU’s inability to release the €500 million EPF funding for Ukraine due to opposition from Hungary highlights the ongoing tensions and divergent views among member states on how to address the conflict in Eastern Europe. It also underscores the need for the EU to find consensus and develop a cohesive approach to effectively support Ukraine and manage security threats in the region.