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Asked about how European leaders had reacted to the Hungarian presidency’s motto “Make Europe great again”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in an interview to public television: “They have swallowed it”. The United States, he said, strived to make itself great, and he suggested that if Europe wanted to remain a global political player it should follow suit. Orbán said Hungary’s diplomacy was “open and straightforward” and it would “call a spade a spade” in European debates. The Hungarian presidency would “lend momentum and do good to Europe” because it would talk openly about the most difficult questions “without trying to influence decision-makers,” he added. Orbán said the Hungarian presidency would not see the “common practice” of addressing issues in a confusing, time-consuming way “in the Brussels bubble’s own bureaucratic approach”, or not addressing them at all. He added, at the same time, that Hungary “knows its place is in the world, its strengths, its faults”, and would contribute what it has to Europe’s values over the next six months. “There will be surprising things,” he said.
Concerning illegal migration, the prime minister said the EU’s migration pact was not working, and the bloc had to move on from it. Orbán said he recommended that Brussels should not penalise Hungary over its refusal to take in migrants, but it and other EU capitals should adopt Hungary’s migration policy. “Suddenly everything would become simpler,” he added. As regards the Hungarian presidency’s aim of boosting Europe’s competitiveness, Orbán said it had been a mistake to introduce “big international taxes”. “Taxes are bad, and stimulating the economy requires supporting economic players,” he said. He said Hungary planned to revise measures “that purport to be about protecting certain industries, particularly the auto industry, from the Eastern industries”. He said that during the preparations for the presidency he had spoken with the leaders of the major car manufacturers, who had told him that they did not want such measures because they stood to lose a lot more “when the Easterners strike back”. Orbán said the EU was on the brink of a trade war with the East, which it would lose out on. The prime minister also spoke about the need to “radically re-think and re-shape” the EU’s green energy policy, arguing that in recent years it had resulted in Europe using more coal than before while energy prices had doubled or even tripled.
Orbán said Hungary planned to advance 120 legislative dossiers during its presidency. Also, some 1,500 Council working group meetings will be held, along with 37 high-level meetings and 230 events connected to the presidency, he said. EU leaders will hold 27 summits and the summit of the European Political Community comprising 47 European heads of government and state will also be held in Budapest, he added.
Orbán said voters in the EP elections had opted for change, insisting that the parties from 20 countries out of 27 that had declared “things cannot go on like this in Brussels” had “won”. The Belgian prime minister and the French government had lost for not discerning the zeitgeist, he said, adding that “the situation is teetering” in Germany. Referring to Patriots for Europe, a new European party alliance he recently formed with Czech and Austrian right-wing parties, Orbán said change would take place as it became plainer to see that change was needed. He said the new grouping promoted peace, order, security and development, and would turn into “a large parliamentary group faster than you’d think”, adding that “many people will be surprised in 4-5 days’ time”. The group’s inaugural meeting will be held on July 8, he said, adding that as well as Portugal’s Chega, which has already announced its plan to join, “an Italian party will also join soon”. Orbán predicted the group would “quickly become the third and then the second largest” formation in Brussels. “It’s we who want a better Europe,” he said, adding that the group’s members were “patriots who love their own country passionately but also find Europe to be important”. “They want strong European cooperation, not against Europe, but for their own country,” Orbán said.
Referring to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Orbán said her performance over the past five years had been “quite meagre” when it came to big issues such as the war in Ukraine and migration, as well as the green transition. He also said the commission had launched political attacks against Hungary under the guise of rule-of-law procedures, so he would not be backing her nomination to retake the post. He also said that Manfred Weber, the leader the European People’s Party, was a “known Hungarophobe”, and he indicated that von der Leyen had been marginally preferable to a putative Weber presidency five years ago. Regarding Antonio Costa, the candidate to chair the European Council, Orbán said Costa had “always been on good terms” with Hungary. Meanwhile, commenting on Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, nominated as the EU’s foreign policy chief, he said he had abstained from supporting her as he was unconvinced she could handle the job, “and besides Estonia is strongly pro-war”. Orbán said it hadn’t been wise to freeze Italy, a founding EU state, out of the negotiations on top positions, adding that “the Italians are rightly outraged”.