Hungary prevents the EU from participating actively in the summit of democracies called by Biden | International

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the end of November in Budapest.BERNADETT SZABO (Reuters)

The European Union will be little more than a stone guest in the world summit of democracies convened by Joe Biden to be held virtually on Thursday and Friday of next week. Hungary, the only EU country that has not been invited by the president of the United States, has vetoed the community club from participating in the meeting with a common position that includes any type of legal or financial commitment.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who will attend the summit convened by Biden on behalf of the EU, will have to limit themselves to interventions that reflect the principles set out in the Treaty of the Union for Community foreign policy, which are based on democracy and the rule of law. But they will not be able to offer any binding concrete commitment because the government of Viktor Orbán has refused to give its green light.

Maneuvers to circumvent the Hungarian prime minister’s veto have been unsuccessful. Community sources indicate that “the legal service of the Council [de la UE] has confirmed that if there is no consensus, the Union cannot present its contribution ”to the summit. Orbán, on the other hand, cannot prevent Michel and Von der Leyen from participating in the summit organized by the US. According to the sources consulted, both European leaders will take advantage of texts previously agreed by the Council, in particular, concussions adopted in October 2019 in defense of democracy.

The summit of democracies was announced by Biden during his electoral battle with the previous president, Donald Trump. But the democratic leadership of the United States was called into question shortly after, when the Republican candidate accused the Democrat of pouting and the most fanatical supporters of the previous president stormed the US Congress.

Despite the deterioration of the international image of the United States, Biden maintained the idea of ​​the summit after his arrival at the White House. “No democracy is perfect,” the president later acknowledged. And he warned that “democracy does not happen by accident, it must be defended, fought for, strengthened, renewed.” And it announced for December 9 and 10 the first of the two summits that it intends to celebrate.

The call did not cause much enthusiasm in the European capitals. European diplomatic sources pointed to the risk that the meeting could end up being interpreted as a Western attempt to distribute democratic credentials to the rest of the world. In Brussels, the risk that some EU partners were not considered truly democratic by Washington, with Poland and Hungary as possible excluded, was also not overlooked.

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The threat has been fulfilled in the case of Hungary and the Orbán government has not been invited to an appointment in which more than a hundred countries from all continents plan to participate. In addition to 26 of the 27 EU countries, the list includes, among others, Iraq, Mexico, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan or Taiwan. The most prominent foreseeable absences are those of China, Russia, Turkey, Iran or North Korea. And the emptiness of the Arab world is also evident, from Saudi Arabia to Morocco.

In the European case, Washington seems to have drawn a dividing line between Poland and Hungary. Both countries are subject in Brussels to a procedure based on article 7 of the EU Treaty for alleged violation of the fundamental values ​​of the club. And the European Commission has been in a continuous legal battle for years to prevent the authoritarian drift of the Fidesz party from Orbán and Law and Justice (PiS), chaired by Polish Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The Commission has demanded that Poland backtrack on judicial reforms that threaten the independence of Polish judges. And this same Thursday, the Commission has given Budapest an ultimatum to withdraw the law that prohibits or limits the dissemination of content related to the LGTBI community. Otherwise, Brussels will report Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU.

But unlike Kaczynski, Orbán maintains and cultivates close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Hungarian prime minister is viewed in some western capitals as a Kremlin Trojan horse within the EU and NATO. That distrust seems to have weighed more than authoritarianism in Washington’s decision to exclude Orbán from the summit of democracies. The exclusion is a diplomatic setback for the Hungarian prime minister, but it can also cause embarrassment in EU leaders who will participate in a summit that does not consider all EU partners to be democratic. Orbán was even a member of the European People’s Party (von der Leyen’s) until Fidesz withdrew its MEPs from the parliamentary group earlier this year.

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