Frustrated EU ministers urge Hungary to stop blocking military aid to Ukraine

European Union Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels

By Andrew Gray

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -European Union foreign ministers urged Hungary on Monday to stop blocking measures to provide billions of euros in military aid to Ukraine, as long-simmering tension with Budapest boiled over.

Even before a meeting of the EU's 27 foreign ministers began, Lithuania's top diplomat Gabrielius Landsbergis accused Hungary of systematically blocking EU foreign policy positions.

"Almost all of our discussions and needed solutions and decisions by (the) EU are being blocked by just one country," he told reporters as he arrived at the meeting in Brussels.

"We have to start seeing this as a systematic approach towards any efforts by (the) EU to have any meaningful role in foreign affairs."

Estonia and Italy also expressed dissatisfaction before the meeting with Budapest's blocking tactics. Diplomats say Hungary's stance is often in line with Russia's interests but Budapest insists it is advocating for peace.

Inside the room, diplomats said, ministers vented their frustration and called on Hungarian colleague Peter Szijjarto to lift Budapest's blocks on measures that amount to some 6.5 billion euros ($7.06 billion) in military aid to Ukraine to help fight Russia's invasion.

"Tempers ran quite high," said one diplomat briefed on the discussions. Multiple officials said the exchanges were among the most heated in years among EU foreign ministers.

EU decisions on foreign policy require the unanimous backing of all 27 member states.

In comments on Facebook, Szijjarto said: "German, Irish, Polish colleagues created a scene, but that could not change our position, regardless of what the war-favouring politicians are shouting."

Lithuania's Landsbergis said Hungary was blocking decisions on EU military aid to Ukraine, the start of EU membership talks for Kyiv, and on Georgia and Armenia.

"We looked into this and apparently about 41% of resolutions by (the) EU on Ukraine have been blocked by Hungary," he said.

"It has gone very, very far," Landsbergis added. "We have to find a way, really, as a community to work around this."

Diplomats say Budapest is blocking a variety of measures linked to the European Peace Facility (EPF), an EU-backed fund that has provided billions of euros in military aid to Ukraine.

"This is crucial now for Ukraine, and also for Europe, to use these EPF funds," Estonian Foreign Margus Tsahkna said.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told reporters: "We are against the blocking. We want to move on."

($1 = 0.9211 euros)

(Additional reporting by Boldizsar Gyori, Tassilo Hummel and John IrishEditing by Gareth Jones)