Hungary taunts allies because it takes up presidency of the Council of the E.U. | EUROtoday

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BRUSSELS — Hungary has spent the previous few years railing towards the European Union. For the subsequent six months, Hungary will assist lead it — and it’s set to be a wild and revealing experience.

On July 1, Hungary, the E.U.’s disruptor-in-chief, takes up the rotating presidency of the Council of the E.U., a job that shapes the E.U. agenda however not often makes headlines past sleepy Brussels.

But the nation’s slogan for its stint — ‘Make Europe Great Again’ — suggests Hungary plans to profit from its flip on the E.U. microphone, seemingly by taunting E.U. allies and speaking up a resurgent proper.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban takes middle stage at a second when the success of hard- and far-right events in current elections has shaken Europe’s institution and the world is mulling the attainable return of a special populist firebrand, former president Donald Trump.

In France, a robust exhibiting from Marine Le Pen’s far-right celebration led President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve Parliament and name snap elections which have thrown a key E.U. energy into political chaos. Germany, in the meantime, is reeling over the success of the far-right Alternative for Germany, a celebration the nation’s home intelligence service considers excessive.

Orban has sturdy ties to Trump’s political motion and is utilizing this second to ship a message to far-right figures on either side of the Atlantic: We are on this collectively and on the rise.

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“National conservative, sovereignist and Christian forces are on the rise all across Europe,” he wrote on X this spring. “We are the worst nightmare of the #Brussels bureaucrats.”

“#MakeEuropeGreatAgain,” he added, “#MEGA” — a play on Make America Great Again, minus (for now) the pink caps.

Orban and the E.U. have been feuding for years, however he’s significantly unpopular in Brussels proper now as a result of he’s held up monetary assist for Ukraine and appeared to make use of the difficulty as leverage in his quest to get the union to unblock billions in funding frozen over considerations about Hungarian democracy.

Daniel Freund, a German member of the European Parliament who’s a vocal critic of Orban, just lately wrote a letter calling for the suspension of the Hungarian presidency on these grounds. “It is time the EU stands up against the bullying of a government that clearly has issues subscribing to the most basic of our European principles and values,” he wrote.

“Hungary in its current state would never pass the accession criteria to join the EU,” the letter continued. “Its criminal leadership should therefore not be allowed to represent the Union.”

But the presidency goes forward. And, over the subsequent six months, Hungary might want to discover a stability between lambasting the E.U. and utilizing it to advertise its pursuits.

Hungarian diplomats in Brussels have set out an agenda that sounds comparatively mainstream: curbing migration, enhancing E.U. competitiveness and bolstering European protection. But Orban and shut allies appear to see the subsequent six months as a possibility to troll Brussels, significantly with assist dipping at residence.

In a briefing on the Hungarian presidency, Zoltan Kovacks, an Orban spokesman, stated the aim was “change in Brussels.” However, E.U.-watchers are skeptical about how a lot Hungary will truly be capable to do, due to the character each of the job and of this explicit political second.

The rotating presidency of the Council of the E.U. requires international locations to place apart their nationwide curiosity and function E.U.-level conveners, setting and shaping the agenda. Hungary is stepping in simply after the European Parliament elections, at a second when E.U. officers and diplomats are extra centered on securing new jobs than engaged on massive information.

In current years, Hungary has been a persistent E.U. holdout, most notably by slowing efforts to assist Ukraine and thwart Russia. Member states have pushed forward in searching for to stop disruption, open accession talks — with Ukraine and Moldova, as an example — and approve extra army help for Ukraine.

“Even if Hungary wanted to block things or to orientate discussions in one way or the other, there won’t be that many legislative fights to conclude,” stated Eric Maurice, a coverage analyst on the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based assume tank.

Instead, count on Hungary to give attention to rhetorical wins, MAGA (or MEGA?) fashion. “The biggest challenge over the next six months will be to separate noise from actual impact,” stated Zselyke Csaky, senior analysis fellow on the Center for European Reform, a London-based assume tank, “because I expect a lot of noise.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2024/07/01/hungary-orban-presidency-council-european-union/