NewsEU battle lines drawn as growing frustration with Orbán furthers rift

EU battle lines drawn as growing frustration with Orbán furthers rift

Viktor Orban recently met, among others, with Vladimir Putin.
Viktor Orban recently met, among others, with Vladimir Putin.
Images source: © Getty Images | Anadolu
Justyna Lasota-Krawczyk

9 July 2024 11:39

In light of Viktor Orbán's recent activities, European Union countries may consider the unprecedented step of shortening Hungary's presidency of the EU Council. Poland might assume the presidency as early as autumn 2024, as revealed by the portal Politico.

It has been noted that EU countries are becoming increasingly frustrated with Orbán's actions. Over the past week, the Hungarian prime minister made several unannounced visits, which he described as a "peace mission".

The day after assuming the six-month presidency of the EU Council on 1 July, Orbán visited Kyiv. It was his first visit to Ukraine since the Russian invasion of that country in February 2022. While the meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky was well received in the West, three days later Orbán went to Moscow for talks with the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, which met sharp criticism from allies.

On Monday, the Hungarian government chief made another unannounced visit, this time to Beijing, from where he flew to the USA for the NATO summit in Washington. Although representatives of EU institutions emphasised that Orbán does not have the mandate to represent the EU's position, experts interviewed by PAP noted that during meetings in Moscow and Beijing, the Hungarian prime minister was treated as an envoy of the entire Community.

Will Orbán harm Hungary's position?

The Politico portal noted that "Orbán is using the rotating presidency of the EU Council to promote a Hungarian worldview, which often contradicts the majority of EU countries, especially regarding aid to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia".

One of the EU diplomats quoted by the portal assessed that "Orbán acts as a 'useful idiot' trying to undermine unity within the EU".

On Wednesday, ambassadors of member countries will discuss the Hungarian prime minister's visits to Kyiv, Moscow, and Beijing in the context of the Hungarian presidency. The tour, which Orbán calls a 'peace mission', is raising increasing concern in capitals that "something is happening behind their backs and against their will", an anonymous EU diplomat told PAP.

An unprecedented step

According to Daniel Hegedus, a Hungarian analyst from the think tank German Marshall Fund (GMF), member countries have the possibility of shortening Hungary's presidency in the EU Council and transferring it to Poland from 1 September. Poland would normally assume the EU presidency at the beginning of the next year.

Hegedus believes that France, Germany, and Poland should initiate such a step, with the support of a large group of member states. The GMF analyst added that tension between Orbán and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni may also favour this move after the new alliance in the EP, Patriots for Europe, took in MEPs from the European Conservatives and Reformists, to which Meloni's Brothers of Italy party belongs.

At the beginning of the week, at an unofficial meeting of EU ministers responsible for competition in Budapest, only five of the 27 economy ministers appeared. The remaining countries were represented at a lower level, as Radio Free Europe journalist Rikard Jozwiak reported on the X portal.

At the end of June, a few days before Hungary assumed the presidency of the EU Council, the British newspaper "Financial Times" wrote about the possibility of member states boycotting ministerial meetings in Hungary.

Related content