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Hungary takes over rotating EU presidency

July 3, 2024

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his populist views often clash with the ideas of other EU leaders and EU institutions. The country is known to use its veto power, especially when it comes to supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia. What does Hungary's presidency mean for the bloc?


[Video transcript]

Hungary, head of the rotating EU Council presidency for the second half of 2024, has ambitious plans for the bloc over the next six months.

Janos Boka, Hungarian Minister for EU Affairs: "The motto of the Hungarian Presidency is, 'Let's make Europe great again!' Our motto refers to an active, pro-active presidency. It reflects the expectation that we are stronger together than we are apart, and that together we can all remain who we are."

Budapest is now in charge of chairing the Council meetings and bringing forward European Union policies by brokering agreement among the EU states.

It wants to focus on areas such as competitiveness, enlargement, and efficient border controls.

But Hungary's relationship with the 27-country bloc has been tense over the past few years. The EU's executive arm, the European Commission, is currently holding back some 19 billion euros in payments due to Budapest over rule of law concerns.

The country, which is considered by some to be one of Russia's closest allies in the EU, is blocking billions of euros in military aid to Ukraine and is critical of plans for Kyiv's future EU membership. 

For the next half-year though, the Hungarian administration insists it'll work faithfully.

Janos Boka, Hungarian Minister for EU Affairs: "As the Presidency, we will be honest brokers who will cooperate loyally with all member states and institutions. At the same time, Hungary, in our view, pursues a strong European policy and represents a clear European alternative."

Political analyst Zsuzsanna Vegh thinks that, at a bureaucratic level, this will be the case.

Zsuzsanna Vegh, German Marshall Fund: "But there is also the political level. And we have seen that Hungary, the Hungarian government, on that level has not displayed a very constructive behavior over the past years and I do not see a reason why that behavior would change on issues that the Hungarian government considers sensitive for itself."

But, Vegh thinks the influence of the Hungarian presidency on EU politics will be limited. After the elections, the European institutions are in a transition phase, which leads to a slower pace in the law-making machinery.

A new EU Commission is due to enter office by the end of the year. In the meantime, Hungary will try to leave its mark on Europe.

DW Mitarbeiterin Lucia Schulten
Lucia Schulten Brussels Correspondent