The European Union’s rotating presidency will pass on July 1 from Spain to Belgium, and then six months later from Belgium to Hungary. The direction of EU affairs will therefore soon be in the hands of a centre-right Hungarian government that has wasted little time, since its massive election victory in April, in asserting its patriotic – some would say ‘nationalist’ – credentials.
Policymakers in Brussels are anxiously watching this development. They recall the unhappy experience of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency in the first half of 2009. The last thing they want is another turbulent presidency run by one of the 10 central and eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004-2007. It would give critics of EU enlargement even more ammunition to fight with.