Hungary’s Viktor Orban was quick to get on the airwaves at home on Friday, telling Hungarians how he vetoed financial aid to Ukraine and could block its path to EU membership any time even though he had let other leaders grant Kyiv accession talks.
Orban, who has a long history of using clashes with Brussels for campaign purposes at home, can use his lone warrior image to appeal to his voters. But his isolation in the 27-member bloc has never been so striking as the moment when other leaders simply went ahead without him on Thursday by proposing he leave the room while they took the decision on accession talks.
The quick breakthrough, which was seen as a critical boost for Kyiv from its Western allies as it battles the Russian invasion and which hours earlier had looked blocked by the Hungarian leader’s objections, also showed the limits of Orban’s power to bend EU decisions his way.
However, the nationalist leader can still hold up future EU decisions on Ukraine’s accession path, budget issues and a fresh round of negotiations on long-term aid to Ukraine next year.