What does Viktor Orban really want? Charles Michel heads to Budapest on Monday to try to understand and avoid a confrontation at the next European summit.

If used to threatening to get what he wants from the European Union — mostly money and tolerance for its authoritarian drift — the Hungarian’s attitude takes on an entirely new dimension. The tone is very serious, the discourse is very ideological and always focused on the EU’s geopolitical choices … more than getting about 28 billion euros of social funds blocked by trampling on the rule of law. Is the government, Viktor Orbán, pursuing another objective this time?, we wonder in Brussels. Does that mean stopping the European political machine and forcing the Union to (slightly) shape it to its liking?

“The winds of change are here!”Viktor Orban reveled in X on Wednesday, hailing the victory of Geert Wilders, an Islamophobic, anti-European and pro-Russian figure in Dutch elections.

The Hungarian prime minister, in power since 2010, has long dreamed of imposing his liberal and reactionary vision on the EU: minimal federalism, all power to the states, no respect for human rights – and again less. immigrants – and fundamental values ​​such as the rule of law and democracy. When it comes to foreign policy, don’t worry about befriending a bloodthirsty dictator like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Viktor Orbán exclaimed: “When Hungarians are dying at the front, you are talking to the person who caused their death.”

A series of provocations

Viktor Orban did not hesitate to shake hands with the Kremlin master at the end of October, becoming the first European leader to make such a gesture since the war in Ukraine began. But if some expressed their anger, other member states again played down this unprecedented mistrust, reiterating the antiphon, according to which “Despite the usual program, Budapest has always joined unanimous decisions to help Kiev”.

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Except Hungary’s provocations have multiplied. On October 26, Viktor Orbán openly opposed the Commission’s proposal to revise the 2021-2027 European budget, specifically to include 50 billion euros in aid to Ukraine. A subject that expects to end on December twenty-seven… The same reaction when the European administration proposed to member states to open accession negotiations with Kiev (and Chisinau) – again with the idea that the decision would be unanimous in December. “Ukraine is by no means ready”The Hungarian Prime Minister responded.

To crown this line, last week he sent a letter to Charles Michael, during the European summit, a “Transparent and Open Discussion on the Potential of EU Strategic Objectives in Ukraine”. “Do we consider these goals still achievable? […] How to shape Europe’s post-war security architecture?He continues in this document, the site revealed Politics.

Priority for Ukraine

Last Tuesday, Charles Michael visited Q, where he could see how much progress in the accession process was dear to Ukrainians. But he also had to keep expectations in check given the uncertainty caused by Hungary’s approach. So, to understand Viktor Orbán and to learn the price to pay to avoid (literally) a political defeat at the European summit – or worse: the general question of support for Ukraine – Charles Michel travels to Budapest.

Viktor Orbán’s frustration is undoubtedly related to the fact that Hungary has not received its 22 billion in cohesion funds and 6.5 billion euros in subsidies for economic recovery. The person concerned argues that his government adopted reforms this summer to restore the independence of the Hungarian justice system and release this aid. But experts warn that these changes are only cosmetic.

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Ukraine’s QWIL confronts Charles Michael in rush to step up road to EU: “Like Eminem says, success is the only chance we have”

What about the rule of law in Hungary?

However, from the point of view of the EU, the question is not whether these reforms are effective or not, but whether Viktor Orbán can be “called” to freeze most of these funds. The commission released 900 million euros in funding for energy projects in Hungary on Thursday, interpreted as a first gesture of goodwill. It is also preparing to provide Budapest with 13 billion euros of integration funds soon.

This would be evidence that neither the Member States nor the Commission have strategies to manage Orban”, sighs a European source. What did the Hungarian Prime Minister understand? As evidence, he has so far kept a low profile on his European funding recovery, with his government returning to controversial bills, proposing a speech on November 21 criminalizing foreign funding of political parties and creating an NGO oversight authority.

The approach is part of Hungary’s campaign to “defend sovereignty”. Posters ghosting Ursula van der Leyen, head of the commission, have been plastered across the country.

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