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A future Orban-Fico alliance? Hungary’s divergent path away from the EU

On 16 January, a visit was paid by Robert Fico, the Slovak prime minister, to the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. The meeting was to discuss the potential decision from the EU to provoke Article 7 of the Treaty of the EU, which could eventually "strip the country of its voting rights." During the joint conference, Fico announced that he “would not allow Brussels to punish Hungary for protecting its own sovereignty" and would support Orbán in the upcoming extraordinary EU summit. Moreover, both exhibited their discontent towards the EU due to its "superstate initiatives and efforts to legitimise illegal migration." The two countries who share similar pro-Russian and authoritarian discourses would likely form an alliance to counter pressures from the EU. 



On 15 December 2023, during the EU summit, learning that the EU leaders were ready to open accession talks with Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced his veto against the financial package for Ukraine, claiming that "The European Union is about to make a terrible mistake and they must be stopped — even if 26 of them want to do it, and we are the only ones against it," 


Just two days before Hungary's blockade, the European Commission decided to partially unblock funds to Budapest that belong to the scheme of the 'horizontal enabling conditions', as the Hungarian government has indeed taken measures to tackle concerns regarding judiciary independence. Nevertheless, half of the funds that account for €11.7 billion remain frozen due to concerns about the provisions of the 'child-protection law', academic freedom and the right to asylum. The European Commission's unblocking of the funds right before the EU Summit took place suggests that this could be a strategic move for fear of Orbán’sveto of a financial aid package to Ukraine from the EU. According to Visegrad Insight, Orbán 's blocking of funds to Ukraine is rooted in "the triangle of his regime's strategic pro-Russia stance, his desire to get the EU funds without democratic or rule-of-law conditionality, and domestic political considerations." 



On 18 January, a resolution was adopted with a voting result of 345/104, denouncing Orbán’sblocking of financial aid to Ukraine during last month's EU summit. The resolution strongly condemned the events during the summit and the recently passed 'national sovereignty protection' package in Hungary. The package was a “significant risk to human rights and should be abandoned", said Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as the package consequently gives Hungary "unlimited authority" to access personal and sensitive data and information. 


Moreover, the EP strongly regrets the failure of the Council to activate Article 7(1) TEU as there's a constant breach of EU values from Hungary under Article 7(2), which could suspend Hungary's veto power. In addition, the EP also questioned the Commission's decision to allow Hungary to claim funds as they have yet to meet the conditions of judicial independence fully. 



Despite the EU's willingness to speed up the accession process for Ukraine, to send financial aid, or even to provoke the notorious Article 7, the EU decision-making method, which requires unanimity of all member states, could turn out to be the stumbling block as Hungary, and Slovakia hold veto powers over these issues. 


In addition, concerns were raised regarding the upcoming Hungarian presidency of the Council of the EU due to Orbán’sseries of decisions that were non-compliant with European values. The Hungarian presidency would be responsible for the policy coordination and policy-making process and a newly formed Commission, starting in the second half of 2024.

Nevertheless, on 17 December, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen commented that she was "confident that a solution at [EU] 27 is possible" and was positive in terms of talking Hungary out of its veto towards financial aid to Ukraine at the extraordinary summit that will be held on 1 February.



Edited By: Josh Reidelbach

Photo: News Insight

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