Germany chides Hungary (again) over blocked Hong Kong support – POLITICO



German patience with Hungary’s China-friendly stance snapped on Friday as Berlin publicly lambasted Budapest for the second time in less than a month for blocking an EU statement criticizing the human rights situation in Hong Kong.

EU foreign policy decisions are taken by unanimity, giving every country the right to veto decisions.

In a tweet, German State Secretary at the Foreign Ministry Miguel Berger pleaded with EU countries to undertake “a serious debate” on how to reform EU foreign policy to make it more efficient — and take away Hungary’s ability to derail such statements.

“Hungary again blocked an EU statement on Hong Kong,” Berger wrote, adding: “Three weeks ago it was on Middle East. Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) cannot work on the basis of a blocking policy. We need a serious debate on ways to manage dissent, including qualified majority voting.”

Berger’s suggestion of moving to qualified majority voting would mean that 15 out of 27 EU countries could approve decisions on behalf of the bloc as long as they represented 65 percent of the total EU population.

An EU diplomat said the Hungarian blockage happened Thursday during a Council working party discussion on the Hong Kong statement, which was supposed to express concern about China’s crackdown on democracy, human rights and media freedom in Hong Kong.

Hungary’s foreign ministry could not be reached for a comment.

Hungary twice vetoed EU moves to impose further measures in response to the worsening democratic situation in Hong Kong in recent months, triggering an angry public reaction from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who slammed the decision as “absolutely incomprehensible.”

Budapest has close economic and diplomatic ties with Beijing and is a member of China’s 16+1 business and investment initiative.

Hungary also blocked an EU statement on the Israel-Hamas conflict last month, forcing EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to issue an informal call to end the violence on his own instead.

Leading German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have called for years for a reform of the EU’s foreign policy, including by potentially creating a European Security Council that could make foreign relations decisions based on input from a limited number of rotating countries.

However, Germany has so far failed to gather significant support for such a proposal.

Discussions on EU foreign policy decision-making are also expected to come up as part of the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe — the bloc’s recently launched forum meant to engage EU citizens.

Thursday’s renewed failure of the EU to adopt a Hong Kong statement caused frustration among officials. Two diplomats said the statement had been considered “a very big compromise” in comparison to original plans for a more assertive EU position toward China.

“It’s bad for the EU’s reputation: we said we would do something but we couldn’t,” one diplomat said, noting the unfortunate symbolism of the blockage becoming public on June 4, a day considered “a symbol of human rights repression,” given the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China occurred on June 4, 1989. “This shows China, and other human rights violators, how easy it is to stop the EU from making decisions.”

An EU diplomat based in China spoke of a similar sentiment. “We are reaching a point akin to enough is enough,” he said. “It’s discouraging for us based here that Brussels is unable to move because of a member state, out of ulterior motives.”





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