Hungarian Presidency to prioritise agriculture reform, drive EU enlargement

Today, Hungary replaces Belgium at the steering wheel, taking over the rotating 6-month Presidency of the EU Council.This change occurs amid a shifting, more right-leaning political landscape following the European elections.

Unlike Belgium, the incoming Hungarian Presidency will not oversee any key legislative moments, with Brussels’ attention on installing new political leadership following EU elections. But as all EU Presidencies, it will carry political weight. Despite the new Commission being unlikely to come up with new proposals during Hungary’s 6-month term, ambition is needed to drive EU enlargement processes and improve policies. This is particularly important for the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) which risks making farmers more vulnerable to the impact of the climate and biodiversity crises and exacerbating already real threats to food security. 


CAP: deleterious status quo is no longer an option  

Hungary has committed to guiding the Union’s post-2027 agricultural policy design by prioritising this in its work program. The CAP recently underwent a suspiciously fast-tracked and anti-democratic reform, done with no impact assessment and in total contradiction with scientific evidence, seeing any remaining environmental safeguards deleted. It is concerning however that the Council conclusions adopted just before Hungary takes its Presidency fall into the false and dangerous narrative pitching competitiveness and profitability against sustainable agriculture.

Faustine Bas-Defossez, EEB Director for Nature, said:

“Today’s CAP is deeply unfair, stifling innovation and obstructing the entry of young people into farming, in an EU where farmers under 40 only manage 12% of the farm holdings. It is high time to boldly rethink how payments are distributed to farmers and to make the policy a true instrument of the transition instead of an obstacle to it. The future of European farming is on the line. The Hungarian Presidency must kick start a participatory and inclusive process for this policy that affects European citizens’ daily lives, health, and wallet as well as our farmers’ future and food security.”


Green policies at a crossroads

Despite several concerns, such as infringement proceedings against Hungary on a range of laws and issues of democratic rollback and weakening of civic space within its territory, there is room for hope that Hungary will build on the successes of the Spanish and Belgian Presidencies. The recently adopted Strategic Agenda addresses the climate, nature, and pollution crises, ruling out inaction. Hungary will therefore need to advance this ambition and drive forward a green and social deal for a one-planet economy.

Patrick ten Brink, EEB Secretary General, stated:
“Hungary has the responsibility to ensure a constructive legacy for the Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidency Trio. Many advances were made by the Spanish and Belgian presidencies, both of which also promoted debate and reflections on a range of key priorities, with climate mitigation, just transition, circular economy, and climate adaptation and resilience the priorities of the outgoing Presidency. These priorities – that combine green and social dimensions – remain fundamentally important during the Hungarian Council Presidency period.”


Larger, greener Union: accession of Moldova and Ukraine

Despite Hungary’s attempts to block the move, accession talks for Ukraine and Moldova began last week. The EU has given the green light to start the process for these two countries to become part of the Union. Tuesday’s meetings with Ukraine and Moldova will initiate a review process to assess how well the countries’ laws align with EU standards and identify the work still needed.

Patrizia Heidegger, EEB Deputy Secretary General, stated:
“The EU has officially opened accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. For a resilient and sustainable Europe we need to ensure a clear path for candidate countries to join the Union in the foreseeable future. A close and meaningful involvement of civil society in candidate countries is key to success. Regarding Ukraine and Moldova, we expect for Chapter 27, that is, negotiations on environmental policies, to be opened in the coming months so we can make sure the two countries can help to drive the path to decarbonisation, depollution and nature restoration.”


Belgium: good efforts, mixed results

The Belgian Presidency made excellent efforts to deliver the Green Deal and promote its continuation into the next legislative cycle. But despite good results in circular economy and environmental justice, and relief at the Nature Restoration Law vote, the overall outcomes were mixed, with poor results in water and particularly agriculture.

The Belgian Presidency came at a critical juncture of the European Green Deal, as the last Council Presidency before the EP elections in June 2024 and last of this legislative period. While there was significant progress during the Spanish Presidency, the tasks remaining for the Belgian Presidency led to an intense agenda, added to by the additional complications around the Farmers protests and increased political pushback on green policies. 

Unprecedented and shocking efforts by anti-regulation ideologues and lobbying by short-term vested interests to drop, delay or degrade the necessary environmental and social protections added an additional layer of difficulty. 

The EEB recognises and applauds the many important efforts made by the Belgian Council Presidency team to maintain ambition in this difficult political context. Nevertheless, we are critical of the many areas where not enough was done to meet the challenges Europe and the planet faces, and to give youth confidence that they will inherit a liveable world. While progress was made, true intergenerational justice remains unfulfilled. 



Notes to editors

Every six months at the rotation of the two EU presidencies, the EEB publishes an assessment of the outgoing Presidency and Ten Green Tests for the incoming presidency. The Ten Green Tests are a bold civil society vision of the challenges and potential success by the Hungarian Presidency of the EU in the context of the challenges the planet and society face.

Read our full Memorandum to the Hungarian Presidency here.

Read our Assessment of the Belgian Presidency here.

Hungarian Presidency to prioritise agriculture reform, drive EU enlargement
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