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17 Feb, 2024 18:44

Hungary pledges to ‘occupy’ Brussels

A combination of events this year could increase Hungary’s relative power on the continent, prime minister Orban has said
Hungary pledges to ‘occupy’ Brussels

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has forecast a right-wing resurgence in Europe that will “occupy Brussels” and “Make Europe great again.” Hungary will take over the EU’s rotating presidency in July, after European Parliament elections in June.

“The stage of world politics at the end of the year will show a completely different picture than it does now,” Orban said during his annual state of the nation address on Saturday. Citing the US presidential election in November and the European Parliament elections in June, Orban predicted that “Hungary’s room for maneuver will not decrease, but will expand.”

Under Orban, Budapest has found itself at loggerheads with Brussels on myriad issues. EU authorities have withheld funds from Hungary over his hardline immigration policies and alleged restriction of judicial independence, while Orban’s backing of a ceasefire and peace talks in Ukraine have placed him at odds with his fellow EU leaders. The showdown over Ukraine came to a head earlier this month when Orban lifted his veto on a €50 billion ($54 billion) aid package for Kiev, only after accusing the European Council of “blackmailing” him with threats to crash the Hungarian economy.

“Brussels bureaucrats will not pull Europe out of trouble,” he said on Saturday. “It’s not worth wasting energy on convincing them, we won’t beat a dead horse.”

“Real change can only be brought about by a new European right wing, of which we Hungarians are a part,” he continued, adding “we have to occupy Brussels.”

Orban’s first opportunity to “occupy Brussels” will come in June, when all 720 seats in the European Parliament will be up for grabs in bloc-wide elections. While there are no pan-European opinion polls available, a projection by Europe Elects currently shows the right wing European Conservatives and Identity and Democracy factions gaining a combined 36 seats, and every leftist, centrist, and green faction losing between two and 26 seats.

Less than a month after the vote, Hungary will assume the European Council’s rotating presidency. A new European Commission will be chosen, with the council nominating a candidate for the parliament’s approval. Hungary, Orban said, will use its time at the helm to try to “Make Europe great again” – a reference to former US President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan: “Make America great again.”

Orban and Trump enjoyed close relations while the latter was in the White House, and the Hungarian leader has endorsed Trump’s 2024 election campaign. LIke Orban, Trump has repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Ukraine, and has promised that if elected, he would have peace talks between Moscow and Kiev underway “in 24 hours.”

“We can’t get involved in another country’s elections, but we would really like Donald Trump to return to the presidency and make peace here in the eastern part of Europe,” Orban said on Saturday. “MAGA there, MEGA here.”



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