Hungary's EU Presidency: A Trump-Inspired Slogan „Make Europe Great Again“

Hungary's announcement of its six-month EU presidency slogan, "Make Europe Great Again," has sparked controversy and raised eyebrows in Brussels, reflecting Prime Minister Viktor Orban's nationalist and Eurosceptic stance

by Sededin Dedovic
Hungary's EU Presidency: A Trump-Inspired Slogan „Make Europe Great Again“
© Brandon Bell / Getty Images

Although it was not a big surprise that Hungary announced the official slogan for its six-month EU presidency with a Trump-like ring to it this week, the message "Make Europe Great Again" raised eyebrows in Brussels, reports the respected European news agency Deutsche Welle.

Hungary's ultranationalist, populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a close ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump, is the most prominent Eurosceptic leader in the European Union. In the past decade, his government has clashed with EU officials and other member states over democratic backsliding in Hungary, migration, and recently, the EU's military support for Ukraine.

Budapest has often used its veto right in crucial votes, delaying political decisions when everyone else was ready to accept them. Initially, billions of euros from EU funds were blocked due to violations of democracy and the rule of law, though some of these funds were later released after reforms were implemented.

Just last week, Hungary was fined 200 million euros for violating EU asylum laws.

Futile Criticism from the European Parliament

The EU Council presidency is a six-month rotating position taken on by each of the 27 member states in turn.

However, the European Parliament questioned Budapest's ability to chair the EU, given that the presidency's role is to act as an "honest broker" among members and rise above national interests. The presiding state is also responsible for advancing the Union's legislative agenda.

Last June, a majority of MEPs adopted a resolution questioning "how Hungary will be able to credibly fulfill this task in 2024, given its non-compliance with EU law." But this non-binding objection had no consequences. Therefore, on July 1st, Hungary will begin chairing EU ministerial meetings and summits, after taking over the leadership from the current presiding country, Belgium.

It will thus represent other member states in negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Commission until the end of the year.

"Honest Broker" with a Trump-like Slogan

This Tuesday (June 18), at a press conference in Budapest, Hungarian Minister for EU Affairs János Bóka promised that his country would work productively.

"As the presiding country, we will be honest brokers who loyally work with all member states and institutions," said Bóka. Bóka also stated that during its presidency, Hungary would aim to increase the EU's economic competitiveness, strengthen defense policy, pursue a "consistent merit-based enlargement policy," and stop illegal migration through stricter border controls and more efficient deportations in cooperation with non-EU countries.

Additionally, Budapest aims to reshape the Cohesion Fund, which is supposed to reduce the gap between richer and poorer regions of the EU. Hungary will also advocate for an "EU agricultural policy oriented towards farmers," considering the protests against EU climate measures, and will address demographic challenges.

Then it was time to announce the official slogan of Hungary's presidency at the press conference: "Make Europe Great Again," said Bóka—a clear reference to Trump's famous slogan "Make America Great Again," which adorns red baseball caps across the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a meeting in the Oval Office on May 1© Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Relations between the EU and the U.S.

were strained during Trump's term from 2017 to 2021. Despite his recent criminal conviction, Trump is running for president again in the upcoming November election. "This actually shows... the expectation that together we should be stronger than individually, but also that when we come together, we should be allowed to remain who we are," Minister Bóka explained what the slogan means for Hungary.

The "Rebellious" Member Takes the Reins

Alberto Alemanno, a professor of European law at HEC Paris, also advocated for denying Hungary the presidency. "My biggest concern about Hungary's presidency is [that it will] further normalize the idea that a rebellious member state can break the rules of the game while still benefiting from it," he explained in a written statement for DW.

Budapest is taking over the EU presidency at a time of changes in Brussels. The European Parliament elections were held in June, and the agreement on the composition of the new European Commission will be finalized by the end of the year.

This likely means there will be very few new legislative initiatives. Slow Accession of Kyiv to the European Union One area where there could be consequences is Ukraine's candidacy for EU membership, which is currently in its early stages.

Kyiv hopes to make quick progress by opening concrete negotiating chapters on the necessary reforms. Hungarian Minister Bóka hinted on Tuesday that there would be no major moves until 2025. "According to my expectations, during Hungary's presidency, the issue of opening chapters will not be raised at all," he told reporters.

Europe Viktor Orban