Orbán threatens to block EU's Ukraine policy

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has threatened to veto the start of EU accession talks with Ukraine. The final decision is to be made at the EU summit in Brussels in mid-December, where a vote will also be held on whether to approve a further 50 billion euros in aid for Ukraine. Commentators discuss what Orbán is trying to achieve with his threat.

Open/close all quotes
Večernji list (HR) /

Not the black sheep but the first swallow

Orbán senses he has the upper hand, Večernji list suspects:

“The impression is that Brussels, Berlin, Paris and the other capitals had seen Orbán as a kind of fly that makes everyone at the table drop whatever they are talking about and focus solely on the fly. Orbán was waved away in the hope that his issues would not be the dominant ones in the EU. ... He has lost close allies in Poland, where the conservatives no longer have control of parliament, but he believes he has gained something with the victories of Robert Fico in Slovakia and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. For that reason he says that in the EU, 'Hungary is not the black sheep but the first swallow'. ... His latest speeches show that he is in good shape and preparing either his decisive battle or something unexpected.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

An attempt to exploit the situation

Orbán is undermining the EU's course at a difficult time, Gazeta Wyborcza worries:

“Is he bluffing again to free up funds for Hungary? Or does he seriously see a chance to change the EU's stance towards Kyiv? ... Hungary's current attempt to undermine the EU's common line on Ukraine comes at a difficult time for Kyiv and Europe, when it is already clear that this year's Ukrainian counter-offensive has brought fewer successes than expected. And another Donald Trump presidency seems increasingly likely.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Hungary should remember its past

Political analyst Dmytro Bashtovyj holds up a mirror to Hungary in Ukrainska Pravda:

“Hungary was not a model of a modern democratic country, but thanks to economic and political support from the EU it left the orbit of the socialist system. Now the Hungarian leadership seems to have 'forgotten' its own experience with European integration. ... Hungary, which was moving from its communist past to democratic transformation, has slipped back into autocracy under Viktor Orbán's rule. ... With such a political course, Hungary, rather than Ukraine, should only be given the status of a 'privileged partner' of the European Union instead of full membership.”

Népszava (HU) /

Unsound arguments

The reasons given by the Hungarian government don't hold water, says Népszava:

“Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said that if Ukraine were to join the EU, war would 'enter the Union'. These statements are intended more for domestic consumption and should also please the Kremlin. The step of starting accession negotiations is along way away from the moment when a country actually becomes a candidate country. Ukraine is not yet ready for EU membership, and nor did the EU Commission's report claim it was.”

Magyar Hang (HU) /

Better to play along

Hungary could be putting obstacles in its own path with a blockade policy, warns Magyar Hang:

“The accession process would offer Ukraine a vision for the future, a perspective that the Hungarian government would deprive the country of by blocking its progress in this process. It would also deprive itself, as an EU member, of the opportunity to force the Ukrainian side to fulfil the criteria of the rule of law, curb corruption and, above all, guarantee the rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia within the organised framework of the accession negotiations.”

Kurier (AT) /

Calculated blackmail

The EU still has no effective remedy against Budapest's disruptive tactics, Kurier laments:

“After years of helplessly watching Orbán strip Hungary of its 'liberal' credentials bit by bit, Brussels hoped last year that it had finally found an effective punishment for the champion of 'illiberal democracy': it is withholding more than 20 billion euros in funds until - so the expectation - the Orbán system finds its way back onto the common European path. The problem is that if the EU doesn't give Hungary the money, Orbán will get awkward.”