The Russia-Ukraine conflict is not likely to be resolved during Hungary’s EU presidency in the second half of next year, authors of a European Parliamentary report on the state of the rule of law in Hungary told a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday. The rapporteurs raised concern about Hungary’s taking over the presidency of the Council of the EU in July 2024. French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield said Hungary had not made progress in resolving issues concerning the rule of law since last autumn, adding that the Hungarian parliament had passed a whistleblower act in April, which would facilitate “denouncement of citizens who do not agree with the narrative of the government or with the constitution”. The legislation, similarly to the “anti-LGBT” child protection law, was “inspired by a Putin-law of ten years ago”, she insisted. Although the Hungarian parliament has repealed a part of the law, the legislation has inspired the idea of passing another EP resolution concerning Hungary, she said. Delbos-Corfield also raised concerning about a bill in front of the Hungarian parliament which she said would strip teachers of their right to strike and increase the government’s control over teachers and students alike. She said the situation of the Hungarian judiciary had not improved, either, and suggested that community funding for Hungary should remain frozen. She said it was worrying that Hungary’s presidency would coincide with the start of the mandate of the new European Parliament and Commission, when commissioners are selected and “the path of the EU in the next five years is determined”. This will be the presidency during which “the Ukraine conflict will probably not be finished”. “Whom will this presidency invite, and … where will this presidency send missions” on behalf of the EU, she asked.
Isabel Wiseler-Lima of EPP said Hungary would be the face of the EU during its presidency, which “raises concern in view of the statements (PM) Viktor Orbán has made”. She insisted that that country had made no progress in such areas as the transparency of political campaign financing, independence of the media, equal opportunities and data protection. She added, however, that “slightly positive” changes had been made concerning issues around judges’ independence, corruption, and the fight against the conflict of interests. “We don’t say what the Council should do, but we ask the Council to find a proper solution to protect the European Union and its fundamental values,” she said.
Thijs Reuten, MEP of the Dutch Workers’ Party, said “The Council should understand … that Hungary is no longer a democracy”. He insisted that though Hungary may implement reforms to access community funding, those changes took “minimum effort that can also be turned back” any time. He said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had a “detrimental impact” on the EU’s foreign policy “vetoing important decisions … on support to Ukraine”, adding that it harmed the EU’s credibility and suggested that the situation could even be worse under Hungary’s presidency. He warned that Orbán could “push his agenda” during the EU presidency, and said “it obviously is not the task of a country holding the presidency”.
Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld raised concern about the European Commission’s negotiations with the Hungarian government concerning the frozen EU funding. She suggested that “Commissioner Johannes Hahn … forgets that this is not about budget conditionality but rule of law conditionality”. She said a decision was up to the Council but added that the body should “have stiff talks with Orbán and convince him to skip his term”. If the Hungarian presidency still goes ahead, she said, “we should give a podium to those who have been silenced in Hungary”.