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Thinking along with the PM: how to conquer Brussels?

On March 15 – the anniversary of the 1848 revolution – the Prime Minister stated that while today Hungary stands alone, the country could soon be conquering Brussels. We have examined the possible pathways that could lead to such an outcome, and assessed their practical likelihood of success.

“With the Compromise (of 1867), we showed that as long as we are respected, we also fulfil our end of the bargain and create a peaceful, flourishing era as far as the eye can see. My friends, it seems that it’s Brussels alone that does not want to understand this. Therefore, if we want to preserve the freedom and sovereignty of Hungary, we have no choice but to conquer Brussels. In 1848, we stopped at Schwechat – this time, we will not.

This time we march all the way to Brussels, and we ourselves will make the change in the European Union. We are not exactly foals anymore; after all, we are a state of 1100 years, experienced and resilient.  We know which gate to march through and how to rearrange the European Union. It is time for the Council of Lieutenancy (another reference to the Revolution’s history) to tremble in Brussels as well.

— This is what Viktor Orbán said in his speech on the stairs of the National Museum on March 15th. The Prime Minister has long been discussing how Hungary’s goal is not to adapt to the political expectations of the West, but to transform them.

These are ambitious goals for a member country with a population of ten million. Not to mention that Hungary is getting more and more isolated within the Union. If we are to take as fact that this is actually Orbán’s political intention, the situation is indeed worth thinking through. How could Hungary conquer Brussels?

SZAJKI BÁLINT / 24.HU Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the National Museum on March 15, 2024.

On June 9, 2024, there will be two elections in Hungary. However, this was not clear from the Prime Minister’s speech, as he talked almost exclusively about the EP elections, omitting the municipal elections. Although as far as Brussels’ conquest and the takeover of political power is concerned, the former is obviously the more important one.

In the European Parliament, there are 705 MEPs representing 27 member states. The largest party is the European People’s Party, of which Fidesz was a member before withdrawing to avoid expulsion. For the European Commission – broadly corresponding to the government of Europe – to lead the EU, more than half of the 705 members must support its work. The European Parliament cannot initiate legislation; only the European Commission can do so. However, the adoption of new laws does require parliamentary approval. This usually means a simple (>50%) majority. This same simple majority is also needed to elect the commission.

The current coalition leading the parliament consists of three parties:

  • the European People’s Party (EPP),
  • the Socialists and Democrats
  • and the liberal Renew Europe.

Together, they hold 429 seats out of 705. The centrist coalition is regularly supported by some members of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party family, as well as by some independent members. The ECR is more right-leaning than the EPP, but it represents an Atlanticist and anti-Russian perspective.

Fidesz has been operating in parliament without a party family for years, so they have little influence on parliamentary affairs.

Fidesz-KDNP has 13 representatives, which is significant for a single party, but considering the entire parliament, it’s very few – Fidesz’s level of influence aligns with this notion. For Fidesz to possess significant influence once again, they would need to belong to a larger delegation within a smaller party family.


There are two possibilities for this. One is the aforementioned ECR, where Fidesz wouldn’t be the largest, but would still belong to one of the larger delegations. However, this party family is currently less than half the size of the European People’s Party from which Fidesz had departed earlier. The Identity and Democracy (ID) party family is even smaller. They represent a political direction even more radical and right-wing, and are less anti-Russian than the ECR. The ID family includes the German AfD, which is the reason they were denied the opportunity to appoint a vice-president to the parliament, as per the decision of the other party families.

Previously, Viktor Orbán endeavoured to unify these two right-wing party families. The attempt failed due to fundamental differences regarding Russia, and also because some member parties of these families are rivals in their own countries. The same intra-party competition also prevented ECR from re-approaching the European People’s Party. The largest party of the ECR is the former Polish ruling party, while the party currently governing Poland sits within the EPP.

Had the union of the two right-wing party families succeeded, they could have been as large as the second-largest party in parliament, the Socialists. However, this plan currently seems unfeasible, while Fidesz even seems to struggle with merely entering one of the families. The ECR would be the more optimal choice for the Hungarian ruling party, as they are taken more seriously than the ID group. However, in terms of politics and ideology, ID is much closer to Fidesz, so this option seems more likely.

According to Politico’s opinion poll aggregation dubbed the “Poll of Polls”, the ID group could be looking forward to the most sizeable growth rates in the wake of the coming elections. If the current projections are to materialise,

Identity and Democracy could become large enough to become the third-largest party in parliament, surpassing the liberals, who are expected to see significant declines.

ECR could also be gaining more influence – however, still not enough to achieve their goals. Within this scenario, the ID could grow to be about half the size of what the European People’s Party is now. However, it will still probably remain outside governance, as polls suggest that the currently governing centrist majority is here to stay.

The reason why this is to be expected is the multitude of electoral systems and political cultures. With 27 member countries representing numerous political and several electoral systems, the chances of radical change are very slim, and it is unlikely for any certain power to suddenly strengthen. The European Parliament is likely to remain as it has been, so these options hardly provide any realistic prospects for conquering Brussels.

There is, however, another possibility: the European Council. The EC is the most important of the three main EU institutions, hosting the prime minister or president from each member state. If we’re to say that the EU has a real leader, then that could only be the EC. The real question is: how could Hungary conquer it?

We are not alone. While the Poles were swept away by Soros’ left-wing tides, the Slovaks have risen, the Czechs are awakening, the Austrians are preparing, the Italians are about to face the right direction, the Dutch are already on their feet, and even the Americans have rebelled. This year will be a turning point. At the beginning of the year, we were alone, but by the end of the year, we will be the majority in the Western world. Great opportunities lie ahead for us

­– these were also Viktor Orbán’s words from the March 15 speech. It’s worth taking a closer look at Orbán’s assessment of Europe; but first, let’s talk about the council, where the 27 heads of government sit. Ten are from parties belonging to the European People’s Party, six are from the liberals, five are social democrats, two belong to the ECR, while another two are independent and do not belong to any European party families. The balance of power is clear: the centre-right leads, followed by the liberals; the three centrist parties together have a significant majority. Identity and Democracy does not host any parties that have proven capable of providing a prime minister, so they are not represented in the council.

One should also note how the order changes when the weight of each party family is adjusted in accordance with the population of EU member countries.  This adjustment is important as it is often considered in the legislative process: the so-called qualified majority, which is needed for the adoption of general laws, requires the votes of 55% of member states, on the condition that these states must cover at least 65% of the Union’s population. The socialists lead this adjusted list, followed by the liberals, and then the People’s Party.

It follows that several large countries have left-wing leadership, while many small ones have an EPP-aligned government. Moreover, the liberals are much stronger in the council than in the parliament.

For someone to conquer and occupy Brussels – in other words, to wield political power – a majority consensus would be needed in the council. However, no elections are held in June as far as the EC is concerned, as the council’s line-up depends on the parliamentary elections of individual member countries. Those elected in domestic elections may take their seat in the council.

This is where Orbán’s list becomes interesting. The loss of Poland is particularly painful for Hungary’s prime minister as Poland’s former government was Hungary’s closest ally in the council. This defence-and-defiance alliance was based on the threat of both countries losing their voting rights under Article 7 procedures, against which the countries agreed on a mutual veto. However, the new Polish government is no longer a partner in this.

The rest of Orbán’s assessment is also peculiar.

  • It can’t really be said that the Czechs have risen in rebellion. Both the incumbent government and president are hostile to Viktor Orbán. The chance for Andrej Babis to return, although extant, is slim. And even if Babis were to return, it wouldn’t necessarily mean a lifeline for Orbán and his allies. For instance, one of the harshest critics of the Hungarian government, Vera Jourova, was nominated as commissioner not by the current government but by Babis’s party, still allied with Fidesz.
  • It’s also difficult to claim that Italy has aligned with Hungary’s current direction. Giorgia Meloni had previously been an ally of Viktor Orbán, but once in government, she began pursuing policies that completely oppose Fidesz in several key areas. Meloni is of an Atlanticist, strongly anti-Russian stance, and also supports Ukraine.
  • The Dutch are not necessarily on firm ground yet, either. While Geert Wilders’ party has won the elections, the Dutch political system is fragmented, and it’s very difficult for a single party to take power: a coalition is always needed to govern. However, no one on the political spectrum was willing to form a coalition with Wilders as prime minister, so his party has officially given up on the option.
  • Although Robert Fico had risen to power in Slovakia, he left Viktor Orbán alone in the council votings regarding Ukraine, just like the previous Slovakian government had. However, Fico’s position is now strengthened as his ally Peter Pellegrini has won the recently held second round of the country’s presidential elections.
  • There may still be a chance for rebellion in the United States and Austria, as both countries will have elections at the end of this year.

In the United States, Donald Trump could return to power, but the election is far from being over. While it’s also a question what policies he would pursue if he were to come to power, it’s certain that his return would allow Viktor Orbán greater political leeway than the current situation.

It is not completely unlikely that Austria will elect the first chancellor belonging to the ID faction. Herbert Kickl is doing well for now, but the polls suggest that he would not be able to govern without a coalition. So, it’s a question whether he would face the same fate as Wilders did in the Netherlands. Should he succeed in forming a government, Orbán would gain a significant ally in the council. Kickl’s election would also make it much easier to pursue EP politics within the ID faction.

However, two out of 27 member states would still be a far cry from the conquest of Brussels. Nonetheless, it could still alleviate Hungary’s isolation.

In those member states where changes could have real impact on the functioning of the continent – primarily Germany and France – elections are not being held this year. In Germany, the AfD could perform well in the regional elections, which could soften Europe’s aversion towards the party. However, they are not in a strong enough position to potentially form a single-party government.

JONAS ROOSENS / ANP MAG / AFP Group photo of European leaders on March 22, 2024.

For that, Marine Le Pen could have a chance in France, which would indeed mean a significant change for the entire continent. However, presidential elections in France are only scheduled for 2027, which is still very far off. It’s not coincidental that Viktor Orbán didn’t mention the Germans and the French in his speech. Supporting the German far-right could harm what’s left of the faint connections with the Christian Democrats, who are expected to govern the country in the future. Regarding France, although there are friendly relations with Le Pen’s party, President Emmanuel Macron is one of the few European politicians with whom Viktor Orbán has an apparently good working relationship.

In light of all this, it’s difficult to see how the Prime Minister intends to conquer Brussels.

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