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For Trump it’s MAGA, but Hungary’s Orbán is going MEGA at the European Union’s helm for six months

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Hungary’s populist government announced on Tuesday that its upcoming presidency of the European Union will be held under the motto “Make Europe Great Again,” but played down any parallels with Donald Trump’s MAGA movement in the United States.

“This is a reference to an active presidency,” Hungary’s EU Affairs Minister János Bóka said as he outlined Budapest’s program and ambitions for its six months at the helm of the world’s biggest trading bloc, starting on July 1.

“It actually shows manifest the expectation that together we should be stronger than individually, but that we should be allowed to remain who we are when we come together,” he told reporters.

Asked about the similarities to the former U.S. president’s Make America Great Again slogan, Bóka insisted it was focused on Europe, saying: “I don’t know if Donald Trump ever wanted to make Europe great again.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who leads a staunchly nationalist government, is an ally of Trump and is considered to be closest to Russian President Vladimir Putin among the EU’s 27 leaders. He has tried to portray himself as a peacemaker on the war in Ukraine.

In February, Orbán said: “We can’t get involved in another country’s elections, but we would really like President Donald Trump to return to the presidency and make peace here in the eastern half of Europe.” It was a reference to the U.S. election in November.

Even then, Orbán was borrowing from Trump’s popular slogan to describe his plans for Hungary’s EU presidency. “Make Europe great again!” he said. “MAGA there, MEGA here.”

In recent years, Hungary has become an outlier in the EU and NATO. The European Commission froze billions of euros in funds to Budapest over concerns about democratic backsliding by the government.

Orbán has watered down EU sanctions against Russia and opted out of NATO plans to provide more support to Ukraine. Earlier this year, EU lawmakers even called for the presidency to be taken out of his government’s hands.

Hungary’s prime minister took to social media on Monday to complain about the way that EU leaders from mainstream parties appeared to be securing the bloc’s top jobs for themselves despite far-right gains in France and Germany in the EU parliament elections earlier this month.

“The will of the European people was ignored” Orbán posted on X. Centrist parties, which held onto their majorities in the parliament, “don’t care about the results of the European elections, and they don’t care about the will of the European people.”

The EU presidency rotates among its member countries. The post holds little real power but it does allow countries to put national priorities high on Europe’s agenda. Spain, for example, used its term last year to push for greater recognition of Catalan and other regional languages.

Bóka said Hungary’s presidency will focus on economic competitiveness and growth, boosting the defense industry, more efficient border controls, a “merit-based” EU enlargement policy and “farmer-oriented agricultural policy” among other issues.

“The Hungarian presidency does not promise a miracle. It promises the chance to progress in some areas, and that of change in others. Therefore, let us make Europe great again,” he said.

By LORNE COOK
Associated Press

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