Croatia’s President slams EU over “United States of Europe” approach to Hungary

Croatia’s president said the EU’s efforts to maintain democratic standards in member states threatened to tear the bloc apart, and condemned EU efforts to financially punish Hungary for alleged violations of rule of law standards.

President Zoran Milanovic made the remarks during a press conference in the Hungarian capital Budapest on Friday after talks with his Hungarian counterpart Katelin Novak.

Milanovic echoed frequent Hungarian criticism of the European Union, saying the bloc was expanding its powers over member states and that this excessive control had precipitated Brexit and driven the United Kingdom out.

United States of Europe

The European Union should not become, according to him, the “United States of Europe”, adding that the EU’s proceedings against Hungary, which froze billions of euros in funding to Budapest due to corruption and rule of law concerns, threatened to destroy the 27 member bloc.

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“This kind of approach (between the European Union and Hungary) is very irritating,” he said, warning that “today it is Hungary, tomorrow it will be a bigger country that will have to ‘teach a lesson’.”

Milanović won the presidential election in Croatia at the end of 2019 as a liberal and left-leaning candidate, a counterpoint to the conservative government currently in power in the EU’s newest country.

But he has since turned to populist nationalism, criticizing Western policy toward both the Balkans and Russia.

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Populist nationalism

Milanovich thus developed a reputation for pro-Russia, which he denied. However, in recent months, he has openly opposed the entry of Finland and Sweden into NATO amid the war in Ukraine, and the training of Ukrainian soldiers in Croatia as part of EU aid to the warring country.

While the heads of state said they both condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine and support its territorial integrity, Milanovic said he, like the Hungarian government, does not support sanctions against Moscow, characterizing the conflict in Ukraine as a proxy war between Russia and the United States. countries.

“The question is how much damage (sanctions) will cause us. It creates damage to Europe,” Milanovich said.

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“We have managed to bring Russia and China closer together. In whose interest is it? All these questions will have to be answered by me, especially by those who make these decisions on my behalf. I demand an answer.”

Novak said at the press conference on Friday that she welcomes Croatia’s Jan. 1 entry into the 27-nation Schengen Area, an area of ​​borderless travel in Europe.

With Croatia’s entry into the region, a border fence separating Hungary and Croatia was subsequently dismantled, a change that Novak says will increase tourism and facilitate travel between the neighboring countries and push the EU’s external borders further south.

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