Is the EU just a big bully? Brussels plan to cripple Hungary reveals the treatment of those that don't agree

Is the EU just a big bully? Brussels plan to cripple Hungary reveals the treatment of those that don't agree

WATCH: Von der Leyen outlines the EU's plans to support Ukraine

EU Parliament
Millie Cooke

By Millie Cooke

Published: 29/01/2024

- 13:26

Updated: 29/01/2024

- 15:10

The EU is willing to go beyond 'nuclear' if it doesn't get its way in its row with Hungary

The EU's fight with Hungary is starting to get vicious - and it tells us a lot about how the bloc responds to threats to its authority.

Hungary has been pushing the European Commission's buttons for months. The row began when the EU withheld funding from Viktor Orban's administration as a result of concerns over its adherence to the rule of law.

It comes as no surprise that Hungary, a nation which has maintained its links with Russia throughout the Ukraine war, chose support for Volodymyr Zelensky as its battleground for its latest run-in with the EU.

When it came to support for Ukraine, an issue the EU prides itself on its response to, Hungary made it clear that it would not cooperate unless the EU handed over the cash.

Ursula von der Leyen/Viktor Orban

The EU has been at loggerheads with Orban for years


In an attempt at de-escalation, Von der Leyen decided to hand Hungary £8.5 billion - part of the money initially withheld from Budapest.

While Von der Leyen claimed her decision to hand over the cash was because it had shown sufficient effort to address concerns over the rule of law, her own MEPs accused her of striking a "dirty deal" with the pro-Russia administration.

The assembly accused the EU Commission of succumbing to blackmail from Orban, in order to get his approval to begin membership talks with Ukraine. Given before the funds were released Orban said granting Ukraine EU membership would be a "terrible mistake" which would "destroy the EU", it is no surprise that the deal has raised eyebrows within the EU.

While Hungary did then give way for the EU to begin membership talks with Ukraine, Orban continued to use the nation's veto to reject another funding package for the war-torn country.

It was at this point, that the EU's patience began to wear thin and Article 7 was threatened. Dubbed the "nuclear option", the measure would suspend Hungary's right to vote in the EU entirely.

European diplomats told Politico that the bloc may be forced to use the penalty if Hungary continues to block the €50 billion lifeline for Ukraine.


But just days after the so-called "nuclear" option was threatened, the EU is already threatening to go even further.

In its latest move, the bloc is said have drawn up plans to cripple Hungary's economy if it continues to stand in the way of the aid package for Kyiv.

A confidential document drawn up ahead of a summit in Brussels this week, seen by the Financial Times, suggests EU leaders are planning to target Hungary's economy by attempting to trigger a run on the country’s forint currency and collapse investor confidence to hit “jobs and growth”.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Hungary is digging its heels iin over support for Ukraine


Clearly, the EU is willing to go beyond "nuclear" if it doesn't get its way.

Support for Ukraine is widely seen to be the right thing to do and it comes as no surprise that the EU wants its members to get behind it. But the concerning part here is the precedent it sets.

It exposes quite how far it is willing to go to ensure that its members are in agreement on foreign policy, and paves the way for the bloc to take this approach on other topics.

By cracking the whip on Hungary in this manner, the EU is at risk of undermining its commitment to democracy later down the line - one of the main things Ukraine is fighting so hard to protect.

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