EU special summit: will Orbán give in?

Ahead of the Special European Council this Thursday, tensions are running high across Europe: will Hungary give the green light for the planned 50 billion euro support package for Ukraine? Budapest has signalled willingness to compromise and sent Brussels a new list of demands in exchange for a yes vote. Meanwhile, the Financial Times has reported that the EU is considering cancelling all EU funding for Hungary in the event of a no vote - but Brussels denies the allegation.

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Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The decisive meeting

The moment of truth is approaching, writes Corriere della Sera:

“Everything is at stake at the European Council, this is a moment of truth for all concerned. For Budapest, which in the words of Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Xavier Bettel 'must decide which side of history it wants to be on'; for the other 26 heads of state and government, called upon to decide whether or not they want to free themselves from the blackmail of the Hungarian leader; and, last but not least, for Giorgia Meloni's government, which must resolve the contradiction between its proven pro-European vocation and the temptation to 'save Private Orbán', whom she has never disavowed, either as a friend or as an ally, in the camp of the European right.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Unprecedented pressure

Brussels could gain new leverage by combining Article 7 and the freezing of all funds, Večernji list urges:

“Activating Article 7 means depriving Hungary of its voting rights in the EU Council. And this is a threat that, at least as a theoretical option, is actually favoured by some in the European Council as a means of putting pressure on Orbán to yield at Thursday's summit in Brussels. But now it seems that this threat could be combined with the blocking of all EU funds to Hungary, which would reduce market and investor confidence in Orbán's homeland. The European Union has never done something like this to a member state up to now.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

Not a good basis for the future

The Kleine Zeitung sees both the EU and Hungary feeling blackmailed:

“The 'internal papers' are rarely blown in by the wind through an open office window. If a document from the EU Council Secretariat magically ends up with the Financial Times, as has happened now, one can take it for granted that a certain strategic consideration was behind it. The paper in question is a broad hint to Viktor Orbán. ... Hungary feels blackmailed, but so does the EU. Not a good basis for the future.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Orbán still has Fico

Hospodářské noviny doesn't believe Hungary will be willing to compromise because Viktor Orbán can count on the support of his new Slovakian friend Robert Fico:

“The Slovakian prime minister is backing Hungary and torpedoing Western aid for Ukraine for domestic reasons. Officially, he has not yet sided with Orbán, but at the functional level Slovakia has already supported Hungary's demands vis-à-vis Ukraine for the first time. 'Fico is increasing the uncertainty about the outcome of the EU summit,' diplomatic sources say. ... If Fico sides with Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister will go unpunished.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

Russia must be stopped

The EU must not abandon Ukraine now, Iltalehti demands:

“Support for Ukraine is also vital for Finland. ... Because if it wanes, if the EU weakens and the European part of Nato falters in strengthening its own defences, Russia will end up holding all the cards. All that will be missing is a new US president who is not committed to the defence of Nato's eastern periphery but would rather focus on China. Russia would then have free rein to conquer new spheres of interest. Finland and the EU must now do all they can to prevent this scenario.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Priority now is to save face

Hungary will agree to the EU aid package for Ukraine, Radio Kommersant FM predicts:

“Budapest is making it clear that it can be persuaded but does not want to capitulate before certain conditions are accepted. It was against this backdrop that Szijjártó travelled to Uzhhorod. He called for negotiations in the Ukraine conflict, and is prepared to organise them. The second issue is the rights of Hungarians in Ukraine. ... Upon his return, Szijjártó will probably claim that he was able to get his way and that he has secured additional guarantees from Kyiv for the tormented Ukrainian-Magyars, and even promises of peace negotiations - and that he has also been promised gas. This way he can save face and agree to give Ukraine the promised EU billions.”

Népszava (HU) /

Blackmail the blackmailer

Brussels is prepared to take drastic measures, Népszava writes in reference to reports of a secret document stipulating that Hungary's EU funds would be cut off if it vetoes the aid package:

“If there has to be a fight, so be it - the document leaked by the Financial Times makes that clear. The EU has finally had enough of Hungary's little games: if Viktor Orbán vetoes support for Ukraine at the summit, the EU will come down so hard on our economy that it will bring the country to its knees through its market clout. ... Hungary's government has achieved what seemed unthinkable: Brussels wants to teach a member state a lesson and no longer confine itself to simply blocking funds. It would respond to blackmail with blackmail.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Tighten the screws

Hungary's stance poses a threat to Europe as a whole, Rzeczpospolita emphasises:

“Hungary could break up the united European front of support for Ukraine and open Europe's gates to Russian imperialism. ... All this means that only two ways out of the Hungarian crisis seem viable. The best is to force Orbán to change his stance. Failing that, the second best is to marginalise the country within the the EU. Maintaining the current constellation can only end in disaster.”