EU should ‘be smart’ about punishing Hungary – top official

European Council President Charles Michel says the reaction to Viktor Orban’s Ukraine “peace mission” to Russia should be measured

European Council President Charles Michel has warned EU member states against formally retaliating against Hungary after its Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Moscow days after his country assumed the rotating presidency of the council.

Michel told the Financial Times that Orban’s “peace mission” had been “a problem” and described his actions as “not acceptable.” However, he suggested that punishing Hungary for the move could amount to “falling into a trap.”

“We don’t want to punish ourselves in a collateral effect of trying to punish someone,” Michel explained. “Let’s be smart.”

EU officials and a number of member states have lashed out at Orban over his trip, which he described as part of a “peace mission” to foster dialogue between Kiev and Moscow. The prime minister has stated that he was not meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky on the EU’s behalf. The meetings didn’t even amount to talks, he claimed, since his only goal was to hear out the two leaders.

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EU could ‘end’ Hungary’s presidency – Politico

According to the FT, the EU’s legal service has concluded that Orban nevertheless violated the bloc’s treaties. His actions “could jeopardize the attainment of the union’s objectives” and were not done “in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity,” it found.

A number of EU nations are reportedly considering whether to boycott informal events that Hungary will host over the six months of its presidency, or perhaps even to strip Budapest of the role entirely.

Criticism of Orban within the EU, while widespread, was not universal. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said last week that he felt “admiration” for his Hungarian counterpart’s courage.

”There are never enough peace talks and initiatives. If my state of health allowed me to go, I would have loved to join him,” added Fico, who is still recovering from injuries he suffered during an attempted assassination in May.

Orban has dismissed the criticism, particularly from EU officials, arguing that a bureaucratized way of doing things was one of the reasons why the Ukraine conflict is dragging on, as the bloc follows Washington’s lead on the matter.

READ MORE: EU bureaucrats ‘want war with Russia’ – Orban

”Europe is increasingly being dragged into a war, in which it has nothing to gain and everything to lose,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the Hungarian press, explaining his intentions.

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