Hungary blocks next tranche of EU off-budget military support for Ukraine

Hungarian Prime Minister Orban speaks during a business conference in Budapest

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary did not approve the disbursement of the next tranche of military support for Ukraine provided under the EU's European Peace Facility (EPF), a government spokesman's office said on Tuesday.

The EPF, created in 2021, is an off-budget instrument aimed at enhancing the EU's ability to prevent conflicts, build peace and strengthen international security.

"Hungary does not agree with the fact that the European Union, along with other existing tools, uses the European Peace Facility solely with regard to Ukraine as this does not allow sufficient funds to be channelled to promote the EU's interests in other areas," the government spokesman's office said in an email response to Reuters about an Italian media report on the matter.

It said other areas where the funds could be used included the Balkans or North Africa.

"For the Hungarian government it is crucial that these issues should be clarified, and that's why it did not approve the disbursement of the next tranche from the EPF," the spokesman's office added.

The EU has provided a total of about 3.6 billion euros for military support for Ukraine so far under the EPF.

Hungary, which is member of the EU and also NATO, has refused to provide any military equipment to its neighbour Ukraine, which was invaded by Russian forces in February 2022.

Hungary has also repeatedly criticised EU sanctions against Russia, which all 27 EU countries must also unanimously approve, but eventually supported all the agreed measures so far.

Hungary has been in a dispute with Brussels, as the bloc has suspended any payments of EU recovery funds until Budapest's nationalist government implements reforms to improve judicial independence and tackle corruption.

In power since 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has clashed with the EU and its executive arm, the European Commission, over Budapest restricting the rights of migrants, as well as tightening state controls over non-governmental organizations, academics, media and courts.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)