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EU presidency holder wants to sideline Hungary

The bloc’s future may depend on stripping Budapest of its voting rights, Belgium has argued

The EU should strip Hungary of its voting rights to safeguard the union’s future, Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib has argued.

Budapest is scheduled to take over the EU Council’s rotating presidency in July. Belgium, the current holder, is in a group of countries voicing frustration over Hungary’s opposition to key EU plans – including support for Ukraine in the conflict with Russia.

“I think we need to have the courage to make decisions: go right to the end of Article 7, activate Article 7 right to the end, which provides for the end of the right of veto,” the Belgian diplomat told Politico on Sunday.

Article 7, which involves a suspension of voting rights, is often referred to as a “nuclear option” against member states considered to have breached the EU’s values.

The European Parliament voted to launch the procedure against Hungary in 2018, accusing Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government of undermining the rule of law through alleged attacks on the media and judiciary – but the process stalled due to disagreements between member states. 

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FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
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Orban is a vocal critic of the Western stance on the Ukraine crisis. He has argued that the arming of Kiev against Moscow has failed to stop the hostilities, and that sanctions have inflicted more harm on the EU than on Russia. 

Budapest has repeatedly used its veto power to block trade restrictions on Russia that it views as a threat to Hungarian interests, and to restrict funding for Ukraine. 

Lahbib accused the Orban government of “increasingly adopting a transactional, blocking and veto attitude” to the bloc’s affairs.

“This is a moment of truth,” she said of the Article 7 threat. “If we go all the way with this mechanism, it must work. If it doesn’t work, we have to reform it. That’s the future of the European Union.”

Hungary is the only EU member currently facing such proceedings. In May, Brussels dropped a similar inquiry into Poland’s domestic policies. Warsaw aligns with Brussels on Ukraine, but until recently had a conservative government that opposed it on other matters, including refugees and LGBT rights.

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This changed last December, when Donald Tusk – a longtime EU supporter and former president of the European Council – returned to office as Polish prime minister. 

“You can do anything as long as you’re one of them, as long you’re part of the Brussels mainstream,” Polish MEP Radoslaw Fogiel said at the time, in an interview with the news outlet Hungarian Conservative.

June 04, 2024 at 04:25PM

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