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Hungary's Ultimatum: A Tug of War for Ukraine's Future in the EU

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Sakchi Khandelwal
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Hungary's Ultimatum: A Tug of War for Ukraine's Future in the EU

In a move that sends ripples across the European political landscape, President of the European Council, Charles Michel is set to meet with Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, on November 27th in Budapest. This visit is drumming up attention due to the backdrop of a recent controversial letter from Orban to Michel. In the letter, Orban has threatened to use his veto power to block all European Union (EU) aid to Ukraine and its future membership in the EU unless a comprehensive revision of the bloc's strategy towards Kyiv is undertaken.

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(Also Read: Alleged Diplomatic Maneuvers and Civilian Casualties: Latest in Ukraine-Russia Conflict)

Deciphering Orban's Ultimatum

In the contentious letter, Orban questions the continued support for Ukraine, particularly if the United States retracts its aid for Kyiv. Hungary, being the only EU member state to reject sending weapons to Ukraine, has made it clear that it will prevent the start of accession negotiations with Ukraine due to perceived ill-treatment of Hungarian ethnic minorities. Orban's stance thus places the upcoming European Council summit on December 14-15 into a precarious position, with the Hungarian Prime Minister's demands set to be a central discussion point.

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EU-Hungary Relations: A Tense Balancing Act

The EU-Hungary relationship has been strained in the recent past. Last December, the European Commission held back €22 billion of EU cohesion funds for Hungary until its government fulfilled conditions related to judiciary independence, academic freedoms, LGBT rights, and the asylum system. However, Hungary was authorized Thursday to receive a €900 million advance from the EU as part of the post-COVID recovery fund. Amidst these tensions, Michel's visit to Budapest is seen as a crucial diplomatic exercise to prevent the upcoming EU leaders’ summit from turning into a disaster.

(Also Read: Azerbaijan Bolsters Ukraine’s Demining Efforts with Specialized Vehicle)

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Ukraine's Commitment and the Path Ahead

Despite the contentious dynamics, Ukraine remains firmly committed to meeting the EU's conditions involving minority rights. Following negotiations with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Ukraine is ready to fulfil all the conditions, including those related to minorities. However, the draft law that reflects these changes appears to violate at least one of the government's established red lines, indicating that there is still room for negotiation and improvement.

While the unfolding scenario might seem like a definite disaster, it is not necessarily a guaranteed catastrophe. The situation is fluid, and the implications of Hungary's ultimatum regarding Ukraine's future are yet to fully unravel. As the world watches, the outcome of the upcoming European Council summit will be a landmark event in this evolving narrative.

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