EU expansion: Why Serbia and Hungary victories are double headache for the bloc

Viktor Orban says he is fighting for ‘common sense’ at EU summit

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Both big wins spell even more trouble for the EU while tensions between camps run high due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. Aleksandar Vučić scored an outright victory in Sunday’s presidential election with the backing of 60 percent of the voters.

His Serbian Progressive party (SNS) gained 43 percent of ballots in parliamentary elections, according to a near complete tally by state election authorities.

The main opposition group, United Serbia, trailed the SNS in the parliamentary elections with 13 percent of the votes.

Their presidential candidate, Zdravko Ponoš, gained a mere 17 percent.

During the election, Mr Vučić said he would maintain Belgrade’s relationship with the Kremlin, despite the war in Ukraine.

He also said he would continue with EU membership negotiations – something that is likely to sit uncomfortably with EU member nations that are trying to cut Russia off.

Serbia’s burgeoning relationships with eastern powers are also enough to set off alarm bells in the EU’s most loyal camps.

China now controls plenty of key infrastructure in the country, including Serbia’s steel industry — something that EU officials fear would give Beijing more influence in Brussels if the country successfully acceded to the bloc.

Serbia has also refused to join Western sanctions against Russia, highlighting its preference for Mr Putin over the EU.

This is the second headache for the EU in the space of less than a day as the highly critical Viktor Orban was also reelected in Hungary on Sunday.

His victory is likely to be celebrated in Moscow given the friendly relationship Mr Orban has with the Russian leader.

Mr Orban has proved a rather large thorn in the EU’s side in recent years, and his huge win is likely to cause even more pain for the bloc.

Mr Orban even went as far as to taunt the Ukrainian leader, who has admonished Hungary for failing to provide any support to its neighbour over the course of the wa, even the day that brutal apparent war crimes committed against Ukrainian civilians were uncovered.

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But the buck doesn’t stop there – Hungary and the EU have been at loggerheads for more than a year now.

Mr Orban portrayed his problems with Brussels as stemming from the EU’s desire to impose “gender insanity” on Hungary.

But the EU argues that its issues with Hungary lie with his government systematically undermining the rule of law and channelled EU funds to his pals – for example, one of Mr Orban’s best friends from school is now Hungary’s richest man.

For more than a decade, Mr Orban has walked the tightrope of maintaining just enough democratic rule to remain within the bloc, whilst also courting authoritarian and far right leaders like Mr Putin and Donald Trump.

Now, he has issued a direct challenge to Europe – he said after his election win that his brand of illiberal conservatism represents the future of Europe.

It remains to be seen what the bloc does next as EU countries and prospective members cuddle up to Mr Putin.

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