How Europe Can Prevent Orbán from Presiding over EU Summit

Tuesday, 9 January 2024

Last weekend, President of the European Council Charles Michel announced his planned resignation. He has decided to run for the European Parliament elections and is almost certain to be elected. It means that his current position will become vacant by mid-July.

The most concerning for many is that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could become his temporary successor.

Read more about Michel's unexpected decision and its consequences in the article by Sergiy Sydorenko, EuroPravda's editor: Will Orbán be allowed to "seize" EU power? Consequences of Charles Michel's resignation.

Firstly, let's clarify that the European Council is the term officially used for the European Union summits, i.e., meetings of 27 EU member state leaders. The President of the European Council is the person who presides over these summits, is responsible for their preparation, and ensures that negotiations lead to some decision.


Charles Michel's announcement of his intention to step down as the President of the European Council was a surprise for both European journalists and leaders of EU member states. In fact, he announced his resignation over six months ahead to allow other players to get ready for it.

He announced his decision in a joint interview for three Belgian outlets. It makes sense since Michel is Belgian (their former Prime Minister), and he will need Belgian votes again.

He announced in this interview that he is running in this year's European Parliament elections, leading his party Reformist Movement (MR). In his second promise, he guarantees, if elected to the European Parliament, to leave the position of the head of the European Council.

There is no doubt that Michel will become a Member of the European Parliament. His party will definitely secure at least one seat.

Michel's term is scheduled at the end of November, about 4.5 months from now. The European Union faces such a challenge first time ever, but the EU law provides a protocol for this situation.

It has dire consequences for Ukraine.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán could become his temporary successor. This won't even require the consent of other states.

The key word in the statement that Viktor Orbán may temporarily take over the position of acting President of the European Council is "may."

Since it is possible to avoid it. Even representatives of countries friendly to Hungary admit that they will not allow it.

Although Michel is leaving the position early, there is nothing in EU law prohibiting other leaders from electing his successor early as well, aiming to have that person take the position immediately, without a transitional period. It prevents Orbán from working even a day as the acting president.

The situation is complicated by the fact that, according to the rules, a new head of the European Council can only be elected after the European elections. Their results will be known by mid-June. During this period, EU leaders will try to collectively determine the names of the three top leaders of European structures – the new President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the head of European diplomacy.

It is currently impossible to predict who will be the new President of the European Council.

One can only certainly assert that it will be a former leader of one of the EU countries.

There are many former leaders who meet these requirements. For example, negotiations are likely to be conducted with the Italian technocrat and former Prime Minister Mario Draghi. We cannot rule out that someone from the Baltic states, who have never held top positions in Brussels, might be considered.

Regardless of whom the European Council chooses, it can be assured that it will be a pro-Ukrainian politician. Other candidates simply have no chance of gathering votes.

Furthermore, depending on the results of the European elections, Charles Michel may also vie for a leadership role in the European Parliament as a whole. It will play into the hands of Ukraine.

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