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Hungary, Europe's troublemaker, takes over the presidency of the European Union.

Hungary, Europe's troublemaker, takes over the presidency of the European Union.

Every six months there is a change of leadership in the EU’s sole legislative assembly: the Council of Ministers, the chamber of 27 governments. A new member state takes over. Now it’s Hungary’s turn, whose populist nationalist government is at odds with the rest of the EU over, among other things, support for Ukraine, the bloc’s migration policy, and Hungary’s democratic shortcomings.

Pretty much every job As for helping Ukraine in recent years – sending weapons, money, or sending a political signal that the country might eventually join the European Union – it has been stymied by Hungary.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has frozen part of Hungary’s contribution, because the country’s judiciary is subject to excessive political control. And just the other week The European Court of Justice ruled Hungary will be fined €200 million for violating EU asylum rules.

Photo: Virginia Mayo/AFP

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban continually goes further in his attacks on the European Union. In a film on It is unusually confrontational rhetoric in a union of 27 governments that usually negotiate politely despite wide ideological differences.

So, no one was surprised when Hungary’s official slogan for the country’s presidency was presented: “Make Europe Great Again,” a reference to former US President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” It’s another provocation – pure trolling – as most EU leaders are now worried that Trump, if re-elected, will cut US aid to Ukraine.

The country that holds the presidency EU Council members are often supposed to act as neutral intermediaries between governments and push forward EU legislation. Now the Hungarian government has a unique opportunity to throw stones at the mechanism by not scheduling decisions on EU policies it disagrees with.

But despite this, many in Brussels are treating the Hungarian presidency calmly.

One reason is that the Hungarian government behaves differently from diplomats and civil servants who represent the country in the European Union. In Budapest, they complain to the local public that EU decisions are undemocratic; In Brussels, government foot soldiers are often involved in drafting the same decisions. This is the division of labor in a state apparatus led by a populist party that does not want the country to leave the European Union.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban meets the press on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels.

Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP

Another reason is That timing couldn't be better. After the European Parliament elections, a new committee must first be appointed and then approved, which will not happen until October or November. Therefore, the EU is not expected to undertake any major new initiatives until well into the autumn, perhaps only in December.

Hungary may indeed postpone decisions on new sanctions packages against Russia or aid to Ukraine while he is in power. But in that case it will only be a few months before the baton passes to Poland this time.

facts.One country is the president for six months.

Every six months – on January 1 and July 1 – the Council of Ministers changes its presidency. People often talk about the president of the European Union, but it is the EU Council of Ministers that changes its president. The EU Commission and the European Parliament are not directly affected.

All Cabinet meetings are chaired by a representative of the country holding the presidency. But there are two exceptions: When EU foreign ministers meet, it is the EU foreign affairs chief who holds the gavel. When heads of state and government hold summits, the meetings are chaired by the President of the European Council.

After Hungary, Poland takes over the presidency. Sweden was the last country to take over the presidency in spring 2023.

Read also:

The European Parliament wants to prevent Hungary from taking over the EU presidency.

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