Hungary’s Isolation Deepens Before EU Council on Ukraine Funding

Democratic Security Outlook 2024: 29 January - 4 February

29 January 2024

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has manoeuvred Hungary into total isolation over his stance on Ukraine as well as NATO membership of Sweden, with both the US and the EU seemingly ready to respond with punitive actions for undermining the unity of the Western alliance.

Upcoming on Visegrad Insight:

  • Oksana Forostyna examines the current mood in Ukraine and whether if reflects the reality on the ground.

EU/REGIONAL

  • The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza but stopped short of ordering an immediate ceasefire. The EU threw its weight behind the ruling.
  • EU Council President Charles Michel changed his mind on abandoning his post to run for European Parliament in June, saying he would remain in his job until December.
  • Michel’s U-turn may help the EU avoid having Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán act as interim EU Council head from July but is unlikely to restore the Belgian politician’s standing with other EU leaders, leaving Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as the de facto supremo(a) in Brussels.
  • The EU is holding a summit to agree on a multi-billion aid package for Ukraine on 1 February, with diplomats saying any attempt by Hungary to again block consensus could prompt other countries to launch the process of stripping Budapest of voting rights in the EU council, according to Politico. The FT reported EU leaders may also block all funding to Budapest.
  • Hungary’s isolation was highlighted when Slovak PM Robert Fico made clear during a visit to Ukraine last week he would not stand in the way of a summit deal, despite appearing to side with Orbán only a day earlier.
  • Turkey’s parliament finally voted to accept Sweden into NATO, leaving Hungary as the last hold-out in the alliance.
  • The US is finalising plans to increase NATO’s nuclear deterrent in Europe by sending nuclear-armed F-35 jets to Britain, UK newspapers reported.
  • French far-right leader Marine Le Pen distanced herself from its German ally, the anti-immigrant and eurosceptic Alternative Fuer Deutschland (AfD), following that grouping’s inflammatory plans to expel foreign nationals from Germany.
  • Le Pen’s National Front and AfD are part of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group in the European Parliament, expected to make gains in the June elections.
  • Frictions inside the far-right camp over AfD’s radicalism may yet lead to a realignment on the European right as Le Pen has strived in the past several years to moderate her nationalist and eurosceptic narratives to appeal to moderate conservatives.
  • Aleksander Stubb, a conservative, narrowly won the first round of the Finnish presidential election ahead of Pekka Haavisto of the Greens. A run-off is due on 11 February.
  • For a summary of forthcoming elections in Europe, please click here.
  • Le Pen appeared to suggest she would be ready to switch allegiance to the European Conservatives and Reformers, a grouping of slightly less extreme nationalist parties such as Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) or Georgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.
  • EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will take part in an Italy-Africa summit in Rome on 29 January.
  • Von der Leyen’s video message on the Holocaust Memorial Day caused consternation across CEE, as captions remembering victims of notorious concentration camps during World War Two, such as Auschwitz in Poland, failed to mention they were run by Nazi Germany on occupied east European lands.
  • “When writing about the Nazi extermination camp in Auschwitz, one should mention it was built there during the German occupation,” Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski said on X. The video was later deleted.

US border security deal linked to Ukraine aid in doubt in Senate 

UKRAINE

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