European Council chief Charles Michel met Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Monday in a bid to defuse rising tensions, while the increasingly belligerent Hungarian leader threatened to block key decisions on Ukraine.
Orban – the only European Union (EU) leader who maintains close ties to the Kremlin – is threatening to use his veto at an EU summit in December to block aid to his war-torn neighbor and stop Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc.
The Hungarian leader is at loggerheads with Brussels over a range of issues, from migration, judicial reform and gay rights,to Ukraine.
His latest attack is an aggressive Eurosceptic advertising campaign with posters targeting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
While some analysts describe Orban’s move towards Ukraine as mere blackmail to unblock billions of euros of frozen EU funds, others claim he is trying to mobilize voters against “Brussels bureaucrats” ahead of June’s European Parliament elections.
Last week, Brussels approved a EUR 900 million advance to Hungary from its fund for recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The bulk of the money that Budapest was supposed to receive has been suspended, however, only until several rule of law conditions that the EU says Hungary is violating are met.
Brussels has also frozen 22 billion euros in separate cohesion funds.
Orban told his supporters during the month that Hungary is resisting EU policy “with all its might”, claiming that it will lead Europe “to ruin”.
In a similar vein, the nationalist recently toughened his stance on the LGBTQ community under pressure from the far-right party Our Homeland.
Ahead of the last European elections in 2019, Orban launched a similar campaign against Von der Leyen’s predecessor, Jean-Claude Juncker.
He has repeatedly portrayed EU leaders as puppets of Jewish billionaire George Soros – and now his son Alex – because of their support for human rights NGOs.