Hungarian Minister of State for European Union Relations Judit Varga speaks at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, 18 November 2022. EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ


Hungary outrage at European Parliament presidency derailment plan


Hungary has reacted with outrage at a European Parliament proposal to derail the country’s presidency of the European Council, with Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga condemning “this anti-Hungarian initiative”.

The Strasbourg-based Parliament plans to vote on June 1 on a resolution that targets Hungary over rule-of-law issues, and to suspend its right to vote on EU decisions. The parliamentary move calls into question Hungary’s upcoming presidency of the EU, which it joined in 2004, prompting Varga’s furious reaction.

“Let us be clear: the EU presidency is not a right but an obligation,” she said in a Facebook post. “We will perform with integrity what we have promised and no one can take that away from us.

“Hungary is a full member of the European Union,” she stressed, pointing out that there is no legal procedure to stop Hungary taking up its presidency of the EU.

The parliamentary standpoint is supported by political groups that accuse Hungary of breaching European Union values regarding concerns about freedom of expression, academic freedom, the rights of minorities and refugees, and other issues.

The latest spat comes after the EU started withholding a wide range of EU funds from Budapest and demanded judicial reforms. Hungary and the European Commission have been at loggerheads over the issues.

The outlook of a Hungarian presidency amid its increasingly strained relationship with the EU seems have spurred the European Parliament into actively targeting the nation. It claims the government of Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, can’t do its job in a credible way, given “it doesn’t respect the norms and values of the EU”.

Opinion over the issue is divided, with some observers believing the resolution is merely symbolic gesture. Others are not so sure, expounding theories about the left-wing governments of Belgium and Spain, who will have the presidency ahead of Hungary, being behind the push to ban it from hosting any meetings concerning rule of law.

Referring to the possible blocking of Hungary’s presidency, Alberto Alemanno, professor of EU law at HEC business school, wrote: “This would go down in history as the first de-potentiated presidency of the Council.”

Varga further countered accusations, saying Hungary is making solid preparations for the presidency and will put “undesirable issues for immigration parties on the agenda, such as European demographic challenges and family politics rather than migration.”

She claimed the country “has a priority that could really scare the European Parliament” as it wants to “strengthen the system of state scrutiny of EU institutions.

“The legal provisions of the treaties also apply to the Union and its institutions!” she added.