BRUSSELS — The European Parliament on Thursday approved a resolution questioning Hungary’s ability to helm a key EU policymaking apparatus in the second half of 2024.
The nonbinding measure easily cleared Parliament by a 442-144 vote, earning support from five political groups spanning from the far left to the center right — a sign of the discontent with Hungary’s track record on democratic backsliding in recent years.
The overwhelming vote is the culmination of days of conversation about whether Brussels may take steps to hem in Hungary’s upcoming turn overseeing the Council of the EU, a power center in Brussels where government ministers hash out EU policy.
Countries take six-month turns helming the Council’s rotating presidency, giving them the authority to chair meetings, set agendas and negotiate policy texts.
The Parliament resolution passed Thursday only offers vague proposals for restraining Hungary’s scheduled presidency. It “questions how Hungary will be able to credibly” assume the Council’s presidency and asks the institution to “find a proper solution as soon as possible” or face “appropriate measures” from Parliament.
The backdrop to the vote is a long-running rule-of-law fight between Budapest and Brussels. The EU is withholding billions of funds from Hungary over accusations that it has failed to implement required rule-of-law reforms under conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
On Tuesday, Hungary’s Justice Minister Judit Varga dismissed the Parliament’s push as “nonsense,” arguing that Parliament has “no role to play” in assigning the order of EU presidencies.
Although the resolution’s primary authors concede that there is no obvious legal route to stop Hungary from taking the presidency, they say Parliament is “not entirely powerless.”
Some Parliament members have, for instance, threatened to limit collaboration with a Hungarian presidency to the bare minimum or to give platforms to dissidents such as journalists or academics alongside Budapest officials at events.