The agreement is a win for E.U. leaders who have increasingly struggled to work with Orban on key issues, particularly Russia’s war in Ukraine, and it is good news for Ukraine, which is running desperately short of both ammunition and cash.
“This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine,” said European Council President Charles Michel, announcing the deal.
The E.U., he said, “is taking leadership & responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the news. “Continued E.U. financial support for Ukraine will strengthen long-term economic and financial stability, which is no less important than military assistance and sanctions pressure on Russia,” he wrote.
“It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders,” he also noted, “Which once again proves strong E.U. unity.”
But weeks of fraught negotiation have spotlighted how a single strongman can disrupt the E.U., even on issues, like Russia, that many see as “existential” for the union. And it has hinted at how precarious and unpredictable long-term support for Ukraine could be.
As if to underscore the sense of uncertainty and chaos, the summit took place amid massive protest by farmers who arrived in tractors, blocked traffic and set fires in the heart of the city. They called on leaders to focus more on cost-of-living issues, including high taxes and what they see as excessive regulation from Brussels.
Hungary quickly seized the moment, posting a video of Orban meeting with farmers and aligning his cause — fighting Brussels — with theirs. “We will stand up for the voice of the people! Even if the bureaucrats in Brussels blackmail us,” he posted.
Bad blood between Brussels and Budapest is not new. For years now, Orban has clashed with E.U. officials and leaders, using his acrimony — and veto — to extract concession while playing to populist sentiment at home.
But in recent months, as he has repeatedly blocked E.U. efforts to secure stable funding for Ukraine, he seems to have crossed a new line. Fellow leaders see his latest antics as a genuine threat to European security — and are increasingly willing to talk about working around him.
In the lead-up to the summit, top E.U. officials and leaders sought to pressure Orban to come back to the table and made plans to move forward without him by, for instance, cutting a deal between the 26 other member states without him.
A paper written up by Council of the E.U. and leaked to the Financial Times ahead of the summit explored ways that E.U. countries could deliberately rattle Hungary’s economy to get Orban on board.
The leak was widely seen as an E.U. effort to bring Hungary back in line.