Orbán’s big Hungarian presidency speech blocked by EU Parliament

Brussels: Hungarian Council presidency will have to wait till later in year for Prime Minister Viktor EU Orbán to present agenda – make Europe Great Again – before European Parliament.

Attempts by Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán to address MEPs at the inaugural plenary sitting of the newly elected assembly in Strasbourg have been rebuffed by parliamentary chiefs unable to find room to accommodate him in the agenda, two sources familiar with the issue have told Euronews.

By long-standing convention, heads of government are given the opportunity to address the Parliament when they take over the rotating presidency of the EU Council, presenting the agenda for their six-month turn at the helm of inter-governmental policy negotiations and answering questions from MEPs.

The sources said Orbán had indicated to the parliament that he could appear before the plenary on Tuesday or Wednesday (16-17 July) next week to present the agenda of the Hungarian presidency, which Budapest has given the slogan ‘Make Europe Great Again’.

However the Conference of the Presidents – the heads of the political groups who determine the agenda – said that the Parliament did not have space in the schedule at that time, both sources agreed.

The first source told Euronews that the Parliament’s business is more than usually busy, blaming the Council for not heeding the advice of the Parliament on the timing of the European elections.

“Five years ago, in 2019, we were able to accommodate the incoming Finnish presidency during the last summer plenary because the elections were held in May, enabling us to hold two plenaries before the summer,” the source said. “We warned that a June election would have consequences for our schedule.”

The first source added that the new parliament needed to constitute itself by voting in the president and fourteen vice-presidents, for which Tuesday and Wednesday need to be kept available.

Thursday is being held open for the confirmatory vote on Ursula von der Leyen’s reappointment as European Commission president. Friday – while theoretically available, was not possible for Orban, according to the first source.

The agenda for next week’s plenary will be finalised this Thursday (11 July) during a conference of the presidents of the parliamentary groups. “It is possible that there could be a last-minute accommodation,” the first source added.

But a spokesperson confirmed that the July plenary sessions was being reserved for “the Parliament’s constitution and election of the European Commission President (pending confirmation by the Conference of Presidents on Thursday)”.

The Hungarian presidency was therefore unlikely to present its programme to MEPs before September, the spokesperson told Euronews.

Orbán has proclaimed himself the one EU leader on friendly terms with the world’s two pre-eminent authoritarian governments, and paid unexpected visits to Russia and China in recent days to discuss a peace settlement for Ukraine, after meeting the Ukrainian president in Kyiv.

He is expected in the US tomorrow for the 75th anniversary summit of NATO.

Orbán’s visit to Moscow triggered condemnation from Ukraine and other European leaders, but the Hungarian premier justified the trip as an outreach effort.

“The number of countries that can talk to both warring sides is diminishing,” he said. “Hungary is slowly becoming the only country in Europe that can speak to everyone.”