BRUSSELS - The European Union will be able work around any Hungarian veto and give Ukraine 50 billion euros ($53.4 bln) in aid, officials in the bloc said, as Kyiv struggles to push back Russia's invasion 21 months into the war.
The bloc's executive has proposed expanding budget support to help Ukraine pay salaries and meet other expenses as the conflict grinds on, and the EU's 27 member states are due to vote on the package at a Dec. 14-15 summit.
But some worry the aid could be blocked by Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban who has touted his ties with Moscow and objected to similar support in the past. Such pay-outs from the shared EU budget need unanimous support of all member states.
Hungary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In case Budapest does wield its veto, two EU officials said the bloc had a way to get around it by asking each of the other EU governments to set up their own aid package with Kyiv. All together, the bilateral pacts would come to the same amount.
"Hungary risks overstretching its luck. We'd prefer to have them on board but there comes a point when people get fed up with Budapest holding everyone hostage. The workaround is tiresome but we have it if need be," one EU official said.
A second EU official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed. "The issue of money for Ukraine will be solved one way or another, Kyiv will get EU support," the official said.
"If Hungary becomes an obstacle to the needed unanimity to do it via the EU budget, member states will find another way, like an intergovernmental agreement or national guarantees."
Last year, Hungary vetoed a similar proposal to give 18 billion euros in financial assistance to Ukraine in 2023.
After months of wrangling, Budapest finally agreed to the package after winning what it said were concessions from the bloc on aid to Hungary, and hearing that the EU would use a similar workaround to push it through anyway.
Asked if the EU would follow that path again if Hungary blocks, European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said this week:
"Last year, we were indeed discussing 'Plan B'... But we were able to avoid this scenario last year. I hope will be also able to avoid this scenario this year."
In power for more than a decade, Orban has been locked in increasingly bitter battles with others in the EU over a range of issues including democratic standards, foreign policy, migration and LGBT rights.
($1 = 0.9369 euros)
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Andrew Heavens)