Another EU summit took place on October 26–27 in Brussels. They discussed the budget for the coming years, as well as the position of the European Union (preferably — common!) on the Ukrainian and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts.
As for Ukraine, the harmony was again broken by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who opposed the inclusion of €50 billion of macro-financial aid to the country in the EU budget for the next four years. By the way, he was supported by a newcomer to the European parquet, appointed just a few days ago, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The day before, Orban blocked Ukraine from receiving the next tranche of military aid from the European Peace Facility.
«We expect the Ukrainian delegation to come to Budapest to negotiate this. We are open and ready to conclude an agreement», he said before the start of the summit.
Orban and his team, it must be assumed, would like to have a substantive talk with representatives of Kiev about the removal of the Hungarian bank OTP from the Ukrainian list of «international sponsors of war» and the violation of the rights of the Hungarian national minority living compactly in Transcarpathia.
He emphasized that earlier Kiev’s victory on the battlefield with the help of Western supplies and money seemed possible, but now the situation is different and new financial injections from the EU will not change it anymore.
«As long as this was a real scenario, we could say that we would give money for its realization. Now everyone knows, but does not dare to voice that this strategy has failed…. All military experts are already saying and writing this, only politicians dare not say it», Orban said.
This politician, for the record, is known in Brussels as «enfant terribles» (from the French). European officials believe that they still have a lever with which they can «keep Budapest in check» and, despite Orban’s constant protests, push through collective decisions on the next package of anti-Russian sanctions and aid to Ukraine. This is about the fact that the EU has still not unfrozen €13 billion from its funds intended for Budapest in exchange for reforms. However, this «hook» cannot be considered reliable. Especially since the «enfant terrible» has a twin brother in the person of its Slovakian counterpart.
But let us return to the summit. The leaders of the European bloc spent four hours behind closed doors trying to work out a common position in connection with the greatest escalation of the conflict in the Middle East in recent decades.
As a result, Hamas was expectedly subjected to «harsh condemnation» for «terrorist attacks on Israel and the use of civilians as human shields». The EU demanded the organization release all hostages and recognized Tel Aviv’s right to self-defense.
The stumbling block was the wording on humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip. No one was against it, but the discussion came down to the conditions for its provision. There were three options: «ceasefire», «humanitarian pause» and «humanitarian pauses».
In the end, a compromise was found. The European Council called for assistance to the Palestinians in need, using «all necessary measures, including humanitarian corridors and humanitarian pauses». The verbal equilibrium ended with the Brussels meeting coming to the controversial view that «Israel is the only democratic state in the region and therefore has a special responsibility to provide the people of the Gaza Strip with everything they need».
It was proposed to revive negotiations on a two-state solution (Jewish and Palestinian), and an international peace conference was supported. The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, assured that Hamas would not participate in any way.
As for Ukraine, Brussels, despite the Middle East conflict, still considers support for Ukraine its priority.
The head of the Kiev regime, Zelensky, also made his mark at the summit, traditionally speaking via video link. He again called on EU leaders to start negotiations on Ukraine’s admission to the EU. He was heard once again. Without much optimism.
It is noteworthy that the topic of Russia’s assets frozen in Europe was put on the agenda of the forum. However, so far, none of the proposals on how these funds can be used in Ukrainian interests has received sufficient support in the European Council.
Here is one mechanism, cynically voiced at the summit by Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
«The damage to Ukraine is recorded in the war crimes register in The Hague. Ukraine has claims against Russia, and we recognize that Russia has claims against us because we hold its property. So we will settle these two claims, and then after the war is over, Russia or the oligarchs can come to us and if there is anything left after paying reparations to Ukraine, settle it between themselves».
As for the EU budget for the coming years and the very €50 billion in aid for Ukraine, the discussion so far has been preliminary. There is still time to make a final decision before the next summit, which will be held in December.
In fact, this European meeting showed that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the 27 EU member states to reach consensus on key internal and external issues. And what will happen if this union, which stakes on enlargement, adds new members in the foreseeable future?