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Hungary Assumes EU Presidency Amid Misgivings

 

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Hungary takes over the EU’s rotating presidency on Monday, promising to be a “honest broker” amid growing misgivings about what critics regard as a pro-Russian administration.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has led the central European country since 2010 with the goal of transforming it into an “illiberal democracy,” routinely disputes with Brussels on a variety of social and political issues, including irregular migration, EU funds, and reforms.

He is also the sole EU leader who has maintained relations with Russia despite its offensive in Ukraine. He has refused to supply armaments to Kyiv and has frequently hit Moscow with sanctions over the war.

Last year, the European Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution condemning Hungary’s “backsliding” on democratic values and wondering how it could “credibly” assume the bloc’s six-month presidency.

Budapest argues that it is ready to take on “the duties and responsibilities” of managing the 27-country bloc.

“We will be honest brokers, working loyally with all member states and institutions,” Hungarian EU Affairs Minister Janos Boka stated in mid-June, announcing the presidency’s program.

“At the same time, we believe Hungary has a clear mandate to pursue a robust European agenda. “Our work will reflect this vision of Europe,” he said.

After Hungary’s last EU presidency in 2011, Orban talked of giving “flicks,” “smacks,” and “friendly slaps” to the “excitable tormentors” of the European Parliament.

This time, the nationalist leader, 61, is even more confrontational, pledging to “occupy Brussels” during the European election campaign in early June, relying on a right-wing victory.

Despite wins by far-right parties, Orban’s Fidesz party is currently isolated, unable to establish a suitable group in the European Parliament.

On Sunday, Orban revealed his intention to build his own coalition with Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) and the centrist ANO party of former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

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