Germany calls for the lifting of vetoes on EU foreign policy

The German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, has demanded that the European Union abolish the veto power of the Member States in matters of foreign policy.

“We cannot continue to be held hostage by those who paralyze European foreign policy with their vetoes. Those who do so play with the cohesion of Europe in the long or short term.”, Maas pointed out at a press conference in Berlin.

“Therefore, I say it openly: the veto must disappear, even if it means that we can be defeated.“explained the head of German diplomacy.

According to EU rules, certain decisions, such as those on taxation or foreign policy, require the unanimity of the Member States.

This system means that a country can use its veto to block, delay or soften European positions.

“As we have always considered that internal solidarity and external sovereignty are two sides of the same coin, now, after internal crises, we must continue to advance in Europe’s ability to act on foreign policy”Maas claimed.

In recent months, Hungary has regularly used its veto power to block critical remarks about China. More recently, Budapest also refused to support a statement calling for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians.

Last week, Miguel Berger, Secretary of State at the German Foreign Ministry, accused Hungary of “block an EU statement” over Hong Kong. He raised the position of “qualified majority voting” on international policy issues.

The battle has been raging for years between EU member states, some of which want the veto rule lifted.

However, as the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, who is in favor of ending the veto, recently underlined, unanimity is also necessary to achieve its abolition.

Poland and Hungary, regularly criticized by Brussels for their reforms, seen as contrary to democratic values, also opposed in November the approval of the EU’s multi-annual budget and the European recovery plan designed to help Member States cope with the pandemic.

This was in response to a rule of law mechanism for the EU budget to make fund transfers conditional on adherence to democratic values, human rights and the independence of the judiciary.

According to Maas, a return to majority voting among member states would avoid the threat of a “Europe of the speeds”.