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Hungary Takes Over EU Presidency Amid Concerns Over Russia-Friendly Stance

Hungary takes over the EU’s rotating presidency, intending to act as an “honest broker” despite concerns about its Russia-friendly government. Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010 with a vision of an “illiberal democracy,” often conflicts with Brussels on issues such as irregular migration, EU funds, and reforms.

Notably, Orban is the only EU leader maintaining ties with Russia despite the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, refusing to send arms to Kyiv and criticizing sanctions against Moscow.

Last year, the European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution highlighting Hungary’s “backsliding” on democratic values and questioning its credibility in assuming the EU presidency. However, Hungary insists it is ready to fulfill its duties. “We will be honest brokers, working loyally with all member states and institutions,” said Hungarian EU Affairs Minister Janos Boka, emphasizing Hungary’s commitment to a strong European policy.

Orban, known for his combative stance, previously boasted about confronting the European Parliament during Hungary’s last presidency in 2011. This time, he has vowed to “occupy Brussels” during the campaign for European elections, banking on a right-wing breakthrough.

Despite gains by far-right parties, Orban’s Fidesz party remains isolated in the European Parliament, prompting him to seek alliances with Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) and the centrist ANO party of ex-Czech premier Andrej Babis.

Last week, Orban’s efforts to derail a deal returning Ursula von der Leyen as head of the European Commission were unsuccessful. Von der Leyen has postponed a courtesy visit to Budapest originally planned for the presidency opening.

Orban toured key European capitals last week to garner support for Hungary’s presidency program, which includes priorities like stemming “illegal migration” and advancing Western Balkans countries toward EU membership. Despite having the ability to set the agenda, Orban’s influence is limited without the commission’s support.

Recent EU decisions, including a new sanctions package against Russia and launching accession talks with Ukraine, have aimed to reduce instability, restricting Hungary’s room for maneuver.

Hungary continues its battle with Brussels, seeking to unlock billions of euros in frozen EU funds tied to issues such as asylum seekers and public procurement. More confrontations on the communication front are anticipated during Hungary’s presidency.

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