Hungarian EU presidency met with discomfort by several member states

Hungary will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2024. Several member states feel uneasy about the prospect due to the country's democratic lapses and ties with Russia. This became apparent during a European Council of Ministers meeting on Tuesday in Brussels.

"Hungary is currently isolated in the European Union because of serious problems with the rule of law," German state secretary for European Affairs Anna Lührmann told a meeting of European affairs ministers. "And because Hungary keeps raising doubts about its support for Ukraine against Russia's brutal invasion, I doubt Hungary's ability to carry out its presidency successfully."

'Neutrality and impartiality'

Dutch Foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra confirmed there was "discomfort". "We all feel that," he said. Other government representatives, such as Swedish secretary of state Jessika Roswall and France's Laurence Boone, kept a low profile. They stressed that as president, a country must first and foremost be an "honest broker". "What we expect is neutrality and impartiality," Boone said.

The comments were prompted by a draft resolution to be voted on Thursday in the European Parliament. Its authors from the Christian democrat, socialist, liberal, green and far-left groups question how Hungary will be able to credibly fulfil its task and ask member states to "find a suitable solution as soon as possible".

"Hungary is currently isolated in the European Union because of serious problems with the rule of law"

Hungarian Justice minister Judit Varga called the discussion "complete nonsense". She denounced "political pressure" from the European Parliament, which she said refused to accept the outcome of Hungary's elections and is interfering in matters in which it has no role.

The presidency of the Council, the EU institution in which member states deal with European legislation, is chaired alternately by each member state for six months at a time. Belgium will hold the presidency from January to July 2024, followed by Hungary in the second half of the year. Hungary previously held the presidency in 2011.



Hungarian Justice minister Judit Varga © PHOTO ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP

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