Germany wants end to unanimous votes on EU foreign policy, amid veto frustration
Daniel Harries
Heiko Maas was talking to a conference of Germany's ambassadors in Berlin. /CFP/People's Vision

Heiko Maas was talking to a conference of Germany's ambassadors in Berlin. /CFP/People's Vision


Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the European Union should abolish the right of individual member states to veto foreign policy measures, as the 27-nation bloc could not allow itself to be "held hostage."

His comments, which came days after a more junior official criticized Hungary by name, reflect growing frustration in Berlin at how EU member countries can prevent it from acting in matters on which almost all members agree.

"We can't let ourselves be held hostage by the people who hobble European foreign policy with their vetoes," Heiko Maas told a conference of Germany's ambassadors in Berlin. "If you do that, then sooner or later, you are risking the cohesion of Europe. The veto has to go, even if that means we can be outvoted."



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Under EU law a unanimous vote is required on certain decisions such as foreign policy, taxation and annual budgets. It means that if just one country decides to vote against the other members of the bloc, it can opt to block or delay positions.

Maas's remarks have been heard in Brussels, where members of the European parliament (MEPs) rarely hear the bloc's biggest economy make such strong public statements on the European Commission's working practices. 

The issue has come to the fore after Hungary blocked a series of legislation including an EU statement in April criticizing China's new security law in Hong Kong, a new trade and development accord and a ceasefire in violence between Israel and Palestine. 

On Monday, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the European left-wing, led by the German left, was attacking Hungary because of "its refusal to sign a politically inconsequential and frivolous joint declaration on Hong Kong."

These declarations make the EU look like a "pathetic paper tiger," Orban wrote on his official website.

"There must be an end to the preoccupation in Brussels with concocting and flaunting declarations ... In recent years, this common foreign policy approach, motivated by domestic political considerations, has led to the European Union's foreign policy stance becoming a laughing stock," Orban said.

He said the EU's foreign policy should be decided by heads of state and governments instead of what he called bureaucrats, citing the latest meeting of the European Council regarding Russia as a positive example.

"As far as Europe's policy on China is concerned, we believe that we must prevent the re-emergence of Cold War policies and culture in world politics," Orban added. 

Source(s): Reuters

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