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State of the Union: What were the top stories in EU politics this week?

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The standoff between Brussels and Hungary escalated this week when illiberal bad boy Viktor Orban lived up to his reputation and vetoed an 18-billion-euro financial aid package to Ukraine.

Orban’s tit-for-tat attitude follows the EU’s refusal to disburse billions of earmarked European funds for Hungary in the bogged-down dispute over the rule of law in that country.

As the EU Commission sees it, Budapest has not done enough to fight corruption and bad governance.

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Now Orban is taking it out on Ukraine, a Western ally fighting for its very survival – while the other 26 member states scramble to keep the money flow for Ukraine going.

“Ukraine is facing a significant financing gap and expects a further disbursement from our package already in January,” EU Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said.

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“We know the situation is extremely difficult. There are millions of people without water, heat or electricity. So, we really need to move forward.” Hungary joined the EU as part of its fourth wave of enlargement in 2004.

At the time, there were doubts about whether the mostly eastern European countries would be able to reach EU standards fast enough.

The same doubts have spilt over into the aspirations of the six countries of the Western Balkans that have been knocking on the EU’s door for quite some time now.

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At a summit meeting in Albania, the feeling was that Russia’s war against Ukraine had created a new sense of urgency.

EU leaders praised the next wave of enlargement in almost poetic terms.

“I am absolutely convinced that the future of our children will be safer and more prosperous with the Western Balkans within the European Union. And it is this shared conviction that unites us and favors this integration process,” European Council President Charles Michel said.

State of the Union is our weekly show from Brussels that brings you the top stories of the week.

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