European Union leaders on Thursday reached an agreement to create a 50-billion-euro fund for Ukraine, bringing onboard Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who had been the primary obstacle to a deal.
“All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion support package for Ukraine within the EU budget,” the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, said on social media just an hour into Thursday’s meeting. “This locks in steadfast, long-term, predictable funding,” he added. “EU is taking leadership & responsibility in support for Ukraine; we know what is at stake.”
What, if anything, Mr. Orban received in exchange for giving up his veto for the fund, valued at about $54 billion, was not immediately clear.
He had been demanding an annual chance to veto the disbursement of money to Ukraine, but that was rejected. Instead, E.U. leaders agreed to a regular review of the way the money was being spent, to assuage concerns about diversion or corruption, bloc officials said.
Under the agreement reached on Thursday, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, will draft an annual report on how the Ukraine fund is being used. E.U. leaders will have a chance to debate its performance and raise any concerns about it.
Talks had been gridlocked, and the mood toward Mr. Orban, the closest ally in the European Union of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, had been souring since Mr. Orban blocked the first attempt to introduce the fund for Ukraine in December.
Ukraine needs the money desperately as it faces one of its most difficult moments since Russia’s full-scale invasion nearly two years ago, with American aid held up in Congress and virtually no progress on the battlefield.
Kyiv needs fresh cash to keep basic services running. The European aid, to be dispensed in the form of loans and grants over the next four years, would both cover immediate needs and allow Ukraine to plan its long-term budget.
Mr. Orban’s long-term obstruction of the European Union’s support of Ukraine has been riling his bloc partners. He has held up or watered down support for Ukraine, including some sanctions against Russia, since the war began.
The Hungarian leader, who appears to relish his spoiler role, has claimed that his resistance comes down to a fundamental disagreement with the rest of the European bloc: He does not believe Russia poses a security threat to Europe, nor does he think that the European Union should be throwing its weight behind Ukraine.
But Mr. Orban regularly uses his levers within the bloc — often his ability to veto decisions that require unanimity, such as the introduction of the Ukraine fund — to push for funds that he has lost access to over a longstanding dispute with the commission over his domestic policies.
The European Union and Hungary have long clashed over policies on the rule of law, corruption and minority rights.
The commission has taken Hungary to task over, among other issues, the hijacking of judicial appointments that it says interferes with the courts’ independence; laws that discriminate against L.G.B.T.Q. people; and the defanging of anti-corruption authorities.
The commission has blocked Hungary from gaining access to some €20 billion until it can demonstrate that it has altered those policies to bring them in line with E.U. rules and values.
If Mr. Orban’s demand for an annual veto for the Ukraine fund was a play to get access to more funding, it failed.
Officials on Thursday said that he had only managed to extract a vague reference in the joint conclusions that leaders will issue at the end of their summit on Thursday. That reference will urge the European Commission to be “proportionate” in the way it freezes funding for member states it punishes for violations, as is the case with Hungary.
The swift decision on Thursday was welcomed with relief by some E.U. leaders weary of the endless fights with Mr. Orban and eager to avoid another showdown that would harm the appearance of unity toward Ukraine.
Shortly after the agreement was announced, Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands wrote on social media: “I’m delighted that we have reached agreement on support for Ukraine. This 50 billion euro package will help us achieve more structure, transparency and predictability in our financial aid to Ukraine.”
The message was clear, he added: “Ukraine can count on our support, both now and in the future.”