Hungarian foreign minister visits Ukraine before EU summit on aid package
Reuters · 01/29 10:55
Hungarian foreign minister visits Ukraine before EU summit on aid package

- Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto arrived in Ukraine for talks with senior officials on Monday, days before a European Union summit that will seek agreement on a financial aid package that has been held up by Budapest.

Szijjarto's talks in the western city of Uzhhorod with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak follow weeks of Hungarian opposition to the EU providing 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in aid.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's political director said earlier on Monday that Budapest was open to using the EU budget for a proposed aid package, a shift in Budapest's stance.

"A frank and constructive dialogue is expected to improve relations between states," the Ukrainian president's office said on its official channel on the Telegram messaging app alongside a photo of Szijjarto, Kuleba and Yermak.

Ukraine has said it hopes the bloc's 27 member states will agree at the summit in Brussels on Thursday to provide the four-year package that Kyiv plans to use to plug its budget deficit this year as it battles Russian forces in its south and east.

Hungary was the only member state that did back the aid package at a summit in December.

Kyiv has said Monday's talks would try to lay the ground for a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Orban's government has long had strained relations with Kyiv and has maintained better ties with Moscow than other EU states since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

Ihor Zhovkva, Zelenskiy's top diplomatic adviser, told Reuters last week the talks in Uzhhorod, which is home to a sizeable Hungarian minority, would touch on bilateral cooperation.

"We are two countries, we have (things) to talk about in the economy, logistics, infrastructure and energy sector," he said.

Ukrainian officials have said they expect Orban to visit Ukraine. No date or time has been disclosed.

($1 = 0.9245 euros)

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth, additional reporting Yuliia Dysa; editing by Timothy Heritage)