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Michel's departure: German ambassador warns about “vacuum” news

The EU must find a successor for the outgoing President of the EU Council, Charles Michel, as soon as possible. This opinion was represented yesterday by the German ambassador to Austria, Vito Cecere, at a night of debate organized by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) in Vienna. This is important so that no “vacuum” is created.

Michel joins the EU election campaign

Michel surprised at the weekend with the announcement that he would end his second and final term, which runs until November, in favor of running as the Belgian liberals' main candidate in the European elections at the beginning of June.

Names for a possible successor are already being discussed, the diplomat informed the meeting at the APA press center in Vienna and cited, for example, former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, from the conservative-liberal camp, and the Social Democrat Sanna Marin, who will occupy the position of the Finnish government until the end of June, had previously held the position of head of government.

Hungary will assume the Council Presidency in July

Hungary will assume the Presidency of the EU Council in the second half of 2024, but this only applies to specialized ministerial meetings. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban takes a decidedly critical stance on the EU in domestic politics and is also taking a different tack from the other 26 EU Member States when it comes to Russia's war against Ukraine.

The Hungarian leadership has also shown demonstrative closeness to Moscow since Russia's attack on Ukraine in February 2022.

However, Budapest largely supported EU sanctions against Russia. More recently, however, Orban blocked an increase in the EU's multi-year budget to finance additional aid to Ukraine.

“Political dilemma”

The fact that Hungary and, until the recent change of government in Warsaw, Poland are EU members that explicitly represent positions different from the majority is, to some extent, new for the EU, Cecere analyzed. “But this change is now a reality and has a kind of political dilemma.”

In Germany, it is closely observed that there are politicians in Austria, such as the leader of the FPÖ, Herbert Kickl, who demand “equidistance” from the conflicting parties in Ukraine. If the Freedom Party is successful in the National Council elections, there is a fear that “something will slip towards authority,” the ambassador said. He also referred to the rise of the right-wing AfD in parts of his home country.