Hungary Begins EU Presidency With Nationalist Agenda

July 2, 2024 by No Comments

Hungary’s nationalist government assumes the presidency of the European Union on Monday with a slogan echoing former US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” despite concerns from EU lawmakers about Hungary’s suitability for the role.

These concerns stem from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s frequent clashes with Brussels over democratic principles.

Hungarian diplomats assert the country will be an impartial mediator, while analysts suggest Budapest’s ability to influence EU policy will likely be limited due to the ongoing transition period following the June elections.

The presidency’s responsibilities include setting the agenda, presiding over meetings of EU members in all areas except foreign affairs and eurozone matters, fostering consensus among member states, and negotiating legislation with the European Parliament.

Analysts indicate that it will take several months for the new European Commission and newly elected members of parliament to fully settle into their roles.

Despite gains by far-right politicians who might be aligned with Hungary’s agenda in the EU elections, the presidency’s capacity to push through policy is limited.

“There’ll only be a small influence on the legislative agenda. That starts much later, possibly at the end of the year, possibly at the beginning of next year,” said Pavel Havlicek, research fellow at the Association for International Affairs.

Hungary has outlined priorities including advocating for Western Balkan membership in the EU, addressing illegal migration, and enhancing economic competitiveness.

Critics point out that its enlargement push excludes Ukraine.

Hungary has a history of obstructing or delaying funding and arms for Ukraine, while maintaining ties with Moscow. It has also criticized EU efforts to reduce reliance on China.

Prior to taking on the EU presidency, the bloc swiftly implemented new sanctions against Russia and initiated membership talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Susi Dennison, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, remarked that a “ballsy” presidency launch suggests Hungary might aim to advance its nationalist agenda.

Johannes Greubel, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Center, noted that certain priorities, such as competitiveness, resonate with the rest of the EU, but these are likely to be paired with right-wing rhetoric on migration and the rule of law.

“It is a presidency of a mixed narrative, but far-right elements will prevail.”