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EU’s hostage of foreign policy hostages must end – German Maas

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas gives a statement before the virtual meeting of EU foreign ministers at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany, May 18, 2021. Marcus Schreiber / Poole via REUTERS

The German foreign minister said on Monday that the European Union must abolish the right of individual member states to veto foreign policy measures, as the 27-nation bloc cannot afford to be “hostage”


His comments, days after a junior official criticized Hungary by name, reflect growing disillusionment in Berlin with how EU member states can prevent him from acting on issues on which almost all members agree.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be held hostage by people who veto European foreign policy,” Heiko Maas told a conference of German ambassadors in Berlin.

“If you do that, then sooner or later you risk the cohesion of Europe. The veto must be implemented, even if it means we can be voted on.”

His remarks amount to an extremely unusual reproach on the part of Germany by another Member State. Aware of its economic and political growth in the EU, Germany is usually very wary of being seen throwing its weight for fear of looking domineering.

Hungary blocked an EU statement in April criticizing China’s new security law in Hong Kong, undermining EU efforts to oppose Beijing’s restrictions on freedoms in the former British colony.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Monday that the European left, led by the German left, was attacking Hungary for “refusing to sign a politically insignificant and frivolous joint declaration on Hong Kong”.

These declarations make the EU look like a “pathetic paper tiger”, Orban wrote on his official website.

“Employment in Brussels must be put to an end by making and flaunting declarations. … In recent years, this common foreign policy approach, motivated by domestic policy considerations, has made the European Union’s foreign policy a laughing stock,” said Orban.

He said EU foreign policy should be decided by heads of state and government, instead of what he called bureaucrats, citing the recent European Council on Russia as a positive example.

“As far as European policy towards China is concerned, we believe that we must prevent the recurrence of Cold War policies and culture in world politics,” the nationalist prime minister added.

Last month, Budapest refused to ratify a new EU trade and development agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, and also refused to support the EU’s call for a ceasefire in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Under Orban, Hungary has closer ties with China, recently agreeing to host a foreign campus at a Chinese university in Budapest over a chorus of opposition protests.

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

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