EU members reportedly set to punish Hungary with weak portfolio in next Commission

EU members reportedly set to punish Hungary with weak portfolio in next Commission
Fidesz has made Ursula von der Leyen a personal target in various campaigns in the last six months. / bne IntelliNews
By Tamas Csonka in Budapest May 31, 2024

EU members, exasperated by Viktor Orban’s constant vetoes and obstructions toward Ukraine, are likely to penalise Hungary by giving Budapest a weak portfolio in the next European Commission, according to Politico.

Orban aims to retain the current post for enlargement held by Oliver Varhelyi, but granting Hungary such a strong portfolio is out of the question, diplomats told the Brussels-based US-owned news website. 

Diplomats raised concerns over Hungary’s undermining common EU policy and blocking accession talks with Ukraine, compounded by attacks on EC President Ursula von der Leyen.

Hungary has also recently blocked a joint EU statement condemning Georgia for adopting the controversial 'foreign agents' law. Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party has developed cordial ties with the ruling Georgian Dream over the past two years.

One diplomat raised concerns over Varhelyi’s role in accession talks with Ukraine. Hungary remains stubbornly opposed to the country’s EU membership and has blocked EU resolutions aimed at helping the war-torn country access aid and military support. The performance of Varhelyi himself, appointed as commissioner by Orban, has also come in for serious criticism.

One diplomat commented: "This is what happens when you put the fox in charge of the henhouse".

About 41% of resolutions by the EU on Ukraine have been blocked by Hungary, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said earlier this week at a meeting of EU foreign ministers, where Hungary’s top diplomat came under  "enormous pressure" to ease obstruction of EU military aid to Ukraine.

Hungary also opposes the latest round of sanctions against Russia. Its actions have raised suspicions that its policy is all but dictated by Moscow.

EU member states are meant to negotiate in a spirit of compromise and only veto when their vital national interests are at stake. However, after the EU suspended the transfer of funds to Hungary because of the Orban regime's violations of the rule of law, Hungary has repeatedly used its veto, in what critics have said is an attempt to force the EU to release those funds.

EU members are now working to accelerate the accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova before Hungary assumes the rotating presidency in July.

Orban's repeated attacks on Ursula von der Leyen also make it very unlikely that Hungary would be given an important post, one envoy said.

Fidesz has made the head of the EU executive a personal target in various campaigns in the last six months. In late 2023 she was depicted next to Alex Soros, the son of Hungarian-born philanthropist, billionaire George Soros with the caption: Let’s not dance to their tune.

In the latest campaign launched weeks before the EP election, the billboard reads "Brussels' humble servants - migration, gender, war", featuring Ursula von der Leyen and opposition politicians as servants. During the campaign, Fidesz replaced a politician of liberal Momentum with that of Peter Magyar, a former Fidesz cadre, who has emerged as the most popular opposition politician and a major challenger to Viktor Orban.