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Updated Jul 2, 2024, 7:51am EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Viktor Orbán makes surprise visit to Kyiv

Insights from Le Monde, the Financial Times, and The Washington Post

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Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrive for a meeting, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine July 2, 2024. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko
Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters
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The News

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrived in Kyiv on a surprise visit Tuesday, shortly after Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, the grouping of the bloc’s leaders.

The trip marks the first time that Orbán, an EU skeptic who is sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has visited Ukraine since Moscow’s 2022 invasion. As the far right rises in Europe, voices like Orbán’s could become more prevalent in Europe’s operations, potentially creating a complicated future for the alliance.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Orbán’s presidency has worried critics

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Le Monde

Orbán has, in recent months, adopted a “Make Europe Great Again” (MEGA) slogan, riffing on the “Make America Great Again” adage commonly used by former US President Donald Trump. Orbán has wanted to deconstruct the EU, turning it into a “Europe of nations,” French newspaper Le Monde noted. While the six months during which Hungary will hold the presidency won’t be enough for Orbán to achieve his goals, the nation’s Parliament is now in charge of setting the EU’s agenda. The power that Hungary now holds has worried critics in key roles in the European Parliament, “especially with war raging in Ukraine and at a time when the far right has been knocking on the doors of power in France,” Le Monde added.

Rise of far-right in Europe could hamper EU operations

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Financial Times

With the far-right on track to win elections in key European countries, including France, a minority of the bloc could hold up decision-making in Brussels. If four nations representing 35% of the bloc abstain from voting or vote against legislation, it cannot pass. Together, a far-right French government, alongside Giorgia Meloni in Italy, Hungary’s Orbán, a new, far-right Dutch government, and euroskeptic Slovakia would make up 35.7% of Europe — paving the way for a tiny minority of nations that could block any legislation, the Financial Times noted. Conservative governments “don’t always agree on everything,” French MEP Pascal Canfin told the FT, but “on migration, green issues, human rights progress, they will likely coalesce and that will mean there will be a collective veto for [the] extreme right if they start working together.”

Orbán already taunting his critics

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The Washington Post

Hungary has been a holdout in the implementation of several policies from Brussels in recent years, most notably over funding packages for Ukraine. Hungary won’t have the time to hugely upend EU operations, since its presidency is following the recent European elections, and no big files are coming up for discussion. As a result, Orbán and his supporters are using the “opportunity to troll Brussels,” The Washington Post noted. The challenge for lawmakers in Brussels “over the next six months will be to separate noise from actual impact,” Zselyke Csaky, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, told the Post.

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