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FT: EU readies €20bn plan B to fund Ukraine

27-12-2023 |

The European Union is preparing a back-up plan worth up to €20 billion ($32.3 billion) for Ukraine, using a debt structure that sidesteps the objections of Hungary’s Viktor Orban about funding the war-torn country.

After EU leaders failed to agree a proposed €50 billion four-year package for Ukraine earlier this month, officials have searched for alternatives to save Kyiv from a looming budget crisis if the bloc’s differences cannot be resolved.

Officials involved in talks said one model funded by debt has gained traction as the most practical way to provide support if Mr Orban refuses to drop his veto at a planned summit on February 1.

This scheme would involve participating member states issuing guarantees to the EU budget, enabling the European Commission to borrow up to €20 billion on capital markets for Kyiv next year, people briefed on the talks said. The precise terms are still under discussion and the final amount would be set according to Ukraine’s needs, they added.

The arrangement is similar to the structure used in 2020 when the commission provided up to €100 billion in cheap financing to EU countries for short-term work-support schemes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crucially, the option would not require guarantees from all the EU’s 27 member states, as long as the main participants included countries with top credit ratings. That would allow the EU to sidestep Hungary’s veto because it would not require unanimous backing.

Some countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, would need parliamentary approval for national guarantees, a process that officials hope could be completed in time to provide aid to Ukraine by March.

One of the people familiar with the discussions said no “technical problem” blocked ways to provide budget finance to Kyiv, but that politically “it is more complicated”.

If EU leaders agree on this plan on February 1, reassurance would be provided to the IMF to release its next tranche of funding for Ukraine worth about $US900 million, the people briefed on the talks said.