Belgian PM De Croo hands over EU presidency to Orbán

Lieven Taillie
credit: dailynewshungary

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – Belgian PM De Croo met Hungarian PM Orbán, handing over the EU Presidency. Belgium finalized significant agreements; Hungary now faces challenges amid its controversial stance.

Outgoing Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo welcomed his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán in Brussels, following the transfer of the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The meeting lasted about half an hour. Neither of the leaders made comments afterwards.

“Now it’s up to Hungary and PM Viktor Orbán,” Alexander De Croo said. “I wish [Hungary’s EU presidency] luck and trust you will deliver in the interest of all EU citizens.”

How Did Belgium Conclude Its EU Presidency?

Belgium finished its Presidency on Sunday 30 June amid tributes from other Member States and European institutions. In the run-up to the European elections (6 to 9 June), Belgium finished almost 70 agreements with the European Parliament. In total, almost 90 legislative files were backed. These included important rulings such as the asylum and migration deal, the regulation of artificial intelligence, the new budget constraints and the nature restoration law. Accession negotiations were also extended with Ukraine and Moldova.

Is Hungary Prepared for Its EU Presidency?

Hungary has also pledged to fulfil its role as an impartial ‘honest broker’ during the Presidency and help Member States comprehend one another. However, under Orbán, Hungary has been following a nationalist course for years with a sharp anti-European discourse.

The country is also in the crosshairs of the European institutions and other Member States for damaging the rule of law and fundamental rights, as well as regularly stopping European support for Ukraine. Orbán, who last week went against the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen as candidate president of the European Commission, picked the slogan ‘Make Europe Great Again’ for his Presidency – a nod to Donald Trump’s motto during the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

What Challenges Face Hungary’s EU Presidency?

In its presidential agenda, Hungary stated that it was taking over the role “at a time of extraordinary possibilities and challenges.” “Our continent is facing every day challenges due to the war in our neighbourhood, the EU dragging more and more behind its global rivals, a fragile security situation, illegal migration, the exposure of international supply chains, natural disasters, the impacts of climate change, and the effect of demographic trends,” the program said.

Many Brussels spokespeople have pointed out that most of the problems related directly to the war in Ukraine have already been determined by the outgoing Belgian presidency, with a 14th package of sanctions on Moscow moved through at the Council’s June sitting. Accession discussions with Ukraine and Moldova were also created and a bilateral security deal was signed between the EU and Kyiv, in addition to which agreement was reached on using frozen Russian assets to benefit Ukraine.

One unidentified member state diplomat was cited by the Polish Press Agency as speaking talks of being an honest arbitrator had to be more than just words to manage anxieties. “They need the approval of other capitals and the European Commission itself in order to achieve any of their plans,” the source said. “A good presidency manages to settle issues that are not always in line with the national interest of their country.”

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Lieven Taillie is Brussels Morning editor-in-chief, specialized in European Affairs, with more than 25 years of experience. He is the President of the Belgian sector of the Association of European Journalists.