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EU Council President to step down, potentially opening position to Orban

by Rachel Amran January 7, 2024 6:57 AM 2 min read
This audio is created with AI assistance

European Council President Charles Michel will run as a candidate for the European election in 2024, possibly triggering a crisis to fill a top diplomatic position, Belgian media reported on Jan. 6.

"I have decided to run in the European elections in 2024," Michel told the newspaper.

Michel would take up his seat in the European Parliament mid-July. EU leaders will then have to quickly appoint a successor for his vacated Council post. Due to the fact that Hungary takes over the rotating presidency of the Council in July, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban could fulfill the role of Council president if EU members do not quickly agree on a candidate.

Tensions between the EU and Hungary over support for Ukraine have grown in intensity over the past year. Orban as Michel's stand-in successor would likely cause further conflicts between members of the Commission.

Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Hungary has repeatedly obstructed EU support for Kyiv, opposed sanctions against Russia, and now threatens to thwart Ukraine's EU aspirations.

After the European Council agreed to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova on Dec. 14, Orban effectively abstained from the vote to open talks, claiming that "EU membership for Ukraine is a bad decision." The next day, he blocked a 50 billion euro ($55 billion) EU package for Ukraine.

Despite Orban's opposition, the European Council has remained a strong supporter of Ukraine throughout the full-scale invasion.

Charles Michel: ‘I don’t think this counteroffensive has failed’
Ten years after Ukrainians took to the streets their dissatisfaction with what many saw as a nail into the coffin of the country’s European future, the European Council president was in Kyiv promising that Ukraine would soon begin accession talks. “My goal is to do everything to make a positive
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