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EU leaders reach deal on €50 billion Ukraine aid package

Published February 1, 2024last updated February 1, 2024

The funding to keep key services running in Ukraine topped the agenda at a special summit in Brussels. Hungary had so far vetoed the deal. DW has the latest.

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (2ndL) shakes hands with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Leaders overcame resistance from Hungary to the deal as Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine nears its second anniversaryImage: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • EU leaders hail €50 billion deal for Ukraine after Hungary drops opposition
  • Following the summit European leaders said the agreement sent a clear message to Washington and Moscow
  • Leaders also discussed Israel's war in Gaza against Hamas militants
Skip next section RECAP — EU members unanimously approve long-term Ukraine aid
February 1, 2024

RECAP — EU members unanimously approve long-term Ukraine aid

This marks the end of our live updates on Thursday's one-day EU leaders' summit in Brussels; thanks for reading. 

The summit's main achievement was breaking a deadlock on the bloc's plans to provide up to €50 billion (roughly $55 billion) to Kyiv over the next four calendar years. 

Hungary, in particular, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, had been holding out on the agreement. 

In order to fund Ukraine as part of the EU's main budget, as Brussels preferred, unanimous approval from the heads of state or government of every EU member was required. 

Minor changes to the planned assistance, perhaps most notably the introduction of a potential review mechanism after two years, were made prior to the agreement.

It's the latest of several difficult EU summits punctuated by Orban resisting often sizeable steps designed to assist Ukraine, such as recognizing it as a candidate for eventual membership in the bloc.

The agreement was made about 12 hours before the planned press conference, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz noting that the meeting was the shortest monthly gathering of EU leaders in Brussels in some time and saying, "That is also a success story in itself."  

Skip next section Macron: Russia can't count on EU Ukraine 'fatigue'
February 1, 2024

Macron: Russia can't count on EU Ukraine 'fatigue'

French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday's deal showed that the EU's 27 members were not wavering in their backing for Kyiv. 

"The message is clear: Russia cannot count on any fatigue from Europeans in their support for Ukraine," Macron said after the summit. "Our support for Ukraine has been united and unanimous since the start of the war." 

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine started in February 2022, though it invaded and then illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014.

Amid the uncertainty in both Brussels and Washington over future funding, questions were being asked about waning levels of support and urgency among Western governments. 

The EU aid package also does not foresee a rapid end to the conflict, with the funds approved on Thursday valid for a four-year period.

However, with most of the assistance being economic and humanitarian aid, and much of it being long-term, low-interest loans not outright charity, Brussels would likely argue much of the spending would still be necessary for tasks like reconstruction even if the conflict is somehow resolved. 

France's dilapidated Russian cemetery

Skip next section EU leaders hope move shows US 'we are reliable and credible'
February 1, 2024

EU leaders hope move shows US 'we are reliable and credible'

The presidents of the European Council and European Commission both voiced hope that Thursday's agreement would also grease the wheels for US assistance to Ukraine in Congress. 

"I think it will be an encouragement for the United States also to do their fair share," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels. 

Von der Leyen: Ukraine deserves EU support

European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped the accord might also reassure US taxpayers that they were not underwriting security on another continent.

"I'm convinced that this decision is also a signal to the American taxpayers, a demonstration that the EU assumes its responsibility, and we know that we must show our leadership, must show that we are reliable and credible," Michel said.  

How much aid has Ukraine received from the EU?

Skip next section Orban hails 'guarantee' the funds will be used 'sensibly'
February 1, 2024

Orban hails 'guarantee' the funds will be used 'sensibly'

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a video posted on social media after the summit that he had agreed to approve the fresh Ukraine assistance with some conditions. 

Orban claimed he received an offer for a control mechanism "to guarantee that the money would be used sensibly," he said without elaborating on his meaning. 

In more concrete terms, Orban had objected to previous plans for a four-year spending plan that would have contained no review mechanisms. 

Thursday's accord foresees annual debates on the implementation of the funds and says that "if needed, in two years," a review of the funds can be launched.

It's possible that this is what Orban intended to allude to.

"And we received a guarantee that Hungary's money would not end up in Ukraine," Orban said. That's a reference to withheld EU aid for Hungary, partly frozen because of a series of rule of law and political issues.

At least nominally, these funds were never part of the Ukraine assistance.

The prime minister also said he welcomed the positive initial stock market reaction to the deal.

Hungary criticizes Ukraine's EU prospects

Skip next section Olaf Scholz hopes EU decision will resonate in US
February 1, 2024

Olaf Scholz hopes EU decision will resonate in US

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz welcomed the unanimous decision reached in Brussels, saying it was important for the EU "to stand together as a family, as a union, and take a decision together." 

Scholz described the summit as "very successful," noting how agreement was reached relatively swiftly compared to recent summits. 

He said the news sent a "good message for the citizens of Ukraine" as they continue to suffer under Russia's invasion. 

But Scholz also voiced hope that the European decision might help smooth the waters in Washington as President Joe Biden tries to push more assistance for Kyiv through Congress, part of which is controlled by the opposition Republicans.  

"I hope that the message from today, the discussions that we have had, also contribute to [Biden] having a slightly easier time with his political plans at home," Scholz said.

While the EU is the largest donor of economic aid to Ukraine, the US is by far its largest military donor. 

"In many [European] capitals the question has to be asked: are we actually doing enough? And the answer in most cases can only be no," Scholz said, adding that Germany could not bear the burden of providing military supplies on its own.

Asked how a deal with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the most notable holdout EU leader, was reached, Scholz said there were "clear discussions about the need for us to reach a unanimous decision here and not a divided one." 

"And in the end these were convincing," Scholz said. 

He also said the altered details of the deal would be stringently upheld, saying the EU couldn't bend its own rules while insisting that others keep to them — an allusion to the criticisms Orban's government faces from Brussels on other issues. 

Germany's Scholz welcomes EU support for Ukraine


Skip next section EU leaders hail Ukraine deal, say more steps still in the works
February 1, 2024

EU leaders hail Ukraine deal, say more steps still in the works

The European Council said in its joint statement following the summit breakthrough that it remained committed "to provide strong political, financial, economic, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support to Ukraine and its people for as long as it takes."

It also noted several other ongoing efforts to increase support, many of which it said would be discussed at next month's meeting of the EU's 27 heads of state and governments.

EU assistance to Ukraine is, for the most part, non-military in nature, but plans to expand the military arms of its assistance also remained under discussion, the statement said. 

The statement also called on member states to continue bilateral efforts to provide Kyiv with military equipment amid Russia's invasion. 

The statement highlighted the "urgent need to accelerate the delivery of" ammunition and missiles in particular.

"Military support and security commitments will be provided in full respect of the security and defense policy of certain Member States and taking into account the security and defense interests of all Member States," the statement concluded. 

Skip next section Zelenskyy welcomes EU funding deal
February 1, 2024

Zelenskyy welcomes EU funding deal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has welcomed the finalization of the deal to provide Ukraine with €50 billion ($54 billion) over the next four years after Hungary lifted its veto.

"It is very important that the decision was made by all 27 leaders, which once again proves strong EU unity," the Ukrainian leader said in a statement.

He added that the funding would "strengthen long-term economic and financial stability" in Ukraine.

A first tranche of €4.5 billion is expected to arrive in Ukraine in March, the Ukrainian Economy Ministry said.

Skip next section Orban dropped opposition after 'clear' message from EU leaders — DW's Alexandra von Nahmen
February 1, 2024

Orban dropped opposition after 'clear' message from EU leaders — DW's Alexandra von Nahmen

DW's Brussels bureau chief Alexandra von Nahmen was reporting from the Belgian capital shortly after the bloc reached a deal on the €50 billion ($54 billion) package for Ukraine.

"Viktor Orban was under a lot of pressure to give in and agree before the start of the official meeting of all EU leaders, he already had a sit-down with the German chancellor, with the Italian prime minister, with the French president and the representatives of the EU institutions," von Nahmen said.

"From what we are hearing from our sources, they made it very clear to Viktor Orban that he is standing all alone in the EU, blocking this essential aid for Ukraine," she said, adding that following the message it became clear Orban would finally say yes and so the EU leaders sat together to finalize the deal.

"This signal of unity… is a very important signal to the US," as well as to Russia and Ukraine, von Nahmen said. The US has also been bogged down by disagreements over aid for Ukraine, with Republican lawmakers blocking a package put forward by the White House.

Skip next section EU leaders reach deal to secure additional €50 billion in aid for Ukraine
February 1, 2024

EU leaders reach deal to secure additional €50 billion in aid for Ukraine

Just one hour into the EU's special summit, EU leaders managed to reach a deal that will allow the bloc to send €50 billion ($54 billion) in funding to Ukraine over the next four years, according to European Council President Charles Michel.

The deal had been blocked by Hungary since the previous leaders' summit in Brussels in mid-December.

"We have a deal," Michel wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding for Ukraine."

The deal was secured after EU leaders agreed to an optional review in two years "if needed." This would represent a compromise with Hungary after Prime Minister Viktor Orban had demanded a yearly review. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen celebrated the agreement, calling it a "good day for Europe."

The decision was also quickly welcomed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal who expressed his gratitude to Michel and the EU leaders.

"Each of your votes is a significant contribution to our joint victory," he wrote on social media.

Skip next section Orban calls protesting farmers 'voice of the people'
February 1, 2024

Orban calls protesting farmers 'voice of the people'

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has managed to get himself to the center of every major issue of the EU special summit in Brussels.

Not only under pressure to make way for €50 billion in funding for Ukraine and to allow Sweden's NATO accession, but he also met with the rally of farmers who have been protesting outside the European Council building.

The Hungarian right-wing nationalist leader posted a video on his Facebook page on Wednesday saying, "The voice of the people of the streets are not taken seriously by the leaders. It's a democratic deficit."

"There's a European election in June. We need a new European Parliament. We have to find new leaders who really represent the people," he added.

Orban, who himself has been accused of chipping away at democratic rights, has been opposed to support for Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion almost two years ago.

The Hungarian prime minister has also expressed support for various farmer protests against Ukrainian imports into the EU.

"Imports of Ukrainian products must be stopped because the conditions and environment for farming are not the same, and European farmers are suffering heavy losses because of EU rules," he said, according to a statement from his Fidesz party.

Skip next section 'Frustration' among EU leaders over Hungary's stance — DW's Christine Mhundwa
February 1, 2024

'Frustration' among EU leaders over Hungary's stance — DW's Christine Mhundwa

DW's Christine Mhundwa was at the European Council building as leaders arrived for the special summit.

"The Hungarian prime minister [Viktor Orban] is insisting on an annual review of this four-year €50 billion aid package with the veto power, saying that there has to be transparency around how this money is going to be used in Ukraine, that the EU has a responsibility to make sure that funds are not misappropriated," Mhundwa said, adding that EU leaders may make a concession on this — at least on-the-surface — reasonable demand.

But there is also a pattern of Hungary blocking what were once considered simple processes, such as Sweden's NATO accession bid.

"There is now frustration among EU leaders because it almost always now comes down to Viktor Orban threatening to use his veto, especially on matters pertaining to support for Ukraine," she added.

For this reason, the rest of the bloc is against Hungary's proposal for an annual review which could consistently hold up necessary funding for Ukraine.

EU leaders "have made a concession now to the Hungarian prime minister and that is offering him a debate — so EU leaders will come around and debate every year but nobody's going to have a veto power."

"Let's see if the Hungarian prime minister will accept that or dig in his heels and use his veto power," Mhundwa said.

Skip next section What have European leaders said so far?
February 1, 2024

What have European leaders said so far?

European leaders have been arriving in Brussels since Wednesday evening.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz is one of the leading voices trying to reach an agreement on military aid for Ukraine.

"I will work hard to get to an agreement among 27 member states," he said ahead of the negotiations, saying he was "convinced" that this is possible. "All member states need to be prepared to give Ukraine what it needs to defend itself."

On the impasse with Hungary, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas insisted: "This pattern of re-negotiation over Ukraine aid should not return."

"One way or another, we will find some solution, with or without Orban, to support Ukraine," Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said, adding: "There is no Plan B. It is up to Orban to decide if Hungary is part of our community or not."

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said there was "no alternative to a compromise on Ukraine among the 27 EU member states."

Skip next section What Hungary has said so far
February 1, 2024

What Hungary has said so far

The biggest obstacle to a deal remains Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

After sparking fury by blocking a deal last December, the right-wing populist struck a combative note as he arrived in Brussels on Wednesday evening, repeating claims of "blackmail" by "Brussels bureaucrats."

Nevertheless, Orban has hinted that he is prepared to compromise by making aid to Ukraine dependent on an annual unanimous vote — which the other member states are unlikely to indulge since it would give Hungary a permanent veto on the issue.

Instead, they have proposed offering Hungary an "emergency break" with which Orban could call for top-level talks on aid, but not a new vote.

Skip next section Protesting farmers block roads around EU summit
February 1, 2024

Protesting farmers block roads around EU summit

Farmers have blocked roads leading to the summit in Brussels on Thursday in protest, using some 1,000 tractors, Belgian police said.

A police spokesman told the French AFP news agency that "there are 1,000 tractors or agricultural machinery."

Angry farmers are complaining about excessive costs, rules and bureaucracy. They are hoping their protests will make their voices heard at the summit.

Farmers have held crippling protests over the past few weeks in EU member-states including France, Belgium, Italy and Germany.

DW's Christine Mhundwa was at the European Council building as leaders arrived for the special summit.

"There are about 1,000 tractors in this very small city," Mhundwa said adding that "they've been here overnight, they've set up fires, they're blowing fireworks."

"They've come to deliver a message to EU leaders and that is that their business is not sustainable. Farmers say they're experiencing price increases — the cost of their business has gone up by as much as €30,000 per annum," she explained pointing to the rising prices of fertilizer, electricity and fuel.

"Also as the EU has set very ambitious carbon emissions-cutting targets which have a direct impact on how farmers can operate, they've come to send a message to say this is difficult," the DW correspondent said, adding that the EU's generous agricultural subsidies tend to benefit larger farmers and it is the smaller farmers are who protesting in Brussels.

Skip next section An in-depth look at the Ukraine funding deal
February 1, 2024

An in-depth look at the Ukraine funding deal

As Russian attacks continue, Ukraine is running out of funds to keep its economy afloat and deliver key services such as running hospitals or keeping schools open to teach children.

The last round of European Union financial aid for Kyiv was disbursed in December, and there is no guaranteed EU funding on the horizon.

Read the full story here.

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