The EU should get rid of the right for individual member states to block its foreign policy through the veto mechanism, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said, following a row over Hungary’s stance on Hong Kong.

“The veto has to go, even if that means we can be outvoted,” Germany’s top diplomat told the nation’s ambassadors on Monday, speaking via videoconference. “We can’t let ourselves be held hostage by the people who hobble European foreign policy with their vetoes,” he said, adding that continuing to do that would only risk “the cohesion of Europe.”

Currently, foreign policy and security decisions at the EU level are taken only if all of its 27 member states agree. This unanimity principle essentially gives any member state an opportunity to block any foreign policy decision through the veto mechanism.

Hungary has been making use of the veto of late, repeatedly blocking various EU resolutions over recent months. Last month, it declined to ratify an EU trade agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, and refused to back a call for ceasefire amid the conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

Led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose government has strained relations with Brussels over a number of issues, including immigration, Hungary also twice refused to support an EU statement criticizing Beijing for its handling of the situation in Hong Kong – seemingly to Berlin’s ire.

At the time, Maas slammed Budapest’s decision to block a statement accusing China of cracking down on “democracy” in Hong Kong as “absolutely incomprehensible.”

“This is not the first time that Hungary has broken away from [the EU’s] unity when it comes to the issue of China,” he said in early May, suggesting that Budapest did so because of “good relations between China and Hungary.” Maas said he believes it “important” that “the European Union speaks with one voice,” especially when it comes to China.

His latest comments come just days after another official from the German Foreign Ministry – State Secretary Miguel Berger – slammed Hungary over its “blocking policy” in a damning Twitter post and openly called for a “serious debate” on ways to “manage dissent” in the EU.

Hungary again blocked an EU-Statement on #Hongkong. Three weeks ago it was on Middle East. Common Foreign and Security Policy #CFSP cannot work on the basis of a blocking policy. We need a serious debate on ways to manage dissent, including qualified majority voting. @eu_eeas

The EU has already attempted to force the dissenting governments in both Budapest and Warsaw into line. Brussels has been at odds with the two EU member states on a number of matters, ranging from migration to what it called “rule-of-law issues.” In March, Hungary and Poland even filed a complaint against the EU over the bloc’s new regulation allowing it to withhold funding from member countries deemed to be bending the rule of law.

The European Parliament has also called for an investigation of Budapest’s alleged violations of the EU’s rule of law back in 2018. If found guilty, Budapest could face sanctions and have its voting rights reduced within the bloc. Hungary mounted a legal challenge against it in the EU Court of Justice, but it was rejected in June.

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