BUDAPEST (POLITICO) — Viktor Orbán isn’t best friends with Angela Merkel but the Hungarian prime minister has found another way to wield influence in Germany — by sidestepping the chancellor to cultivate ties with regional leaders.
This strategy gives Orbán and his officials a chance to counter criticism of their government in Europe’s pre-eminent political power and make the case that the EU should go easy on Budapest despite its hard line on refugees and other policies championed by the Hungarian leader as part of his vision of an “illiberal democracy.”
Back in May, the European Parliament voted to trigger the EU’s “nuclear option” against Hungary — the so-called Article 7 process that can lead to the suspension of a member’s right to vote when the bloc takes decisions. Hungary is unlikely to lose that right, as every other member country would have to back the punishment, but the vote was a sign of frustration across the European political mainstream with Orbán and his policies.
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