EU veto ‘hostage’-taking on foreign policy must end -Germany’s Maas

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Germany’s foreign minister said on Monday 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 criticised Hungary by name, reflect growing frustration in Berlin at the way in which EU member countries can prevent the bloc 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.”

His remarks amount to a highly unusual rebuke by Germany of a fellow member state. Germany, conscious of its economic and political heft within the EU, is normally very cautious about being seen to throw its weight for fear of seeming overbearing.

Hungary blocked an EU statement in April criticising China’s new security law in Hong Kong, undermining the bloc’s efforts to confront Beijing’s restrictions of freedoms in the former British colony.

Last month, Budapest refused to ratify a new EU trade and development accord with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, and also declined to support an EU call for a ceasefire in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Under nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Hungary has pursued closer ties with China, most recently agreeing to host a foreign campus of a major Chinese university in Budapest over a chorus of opposition protest.

(Reportering by Andreas Rinke, writing by Thomas Escritt, editing by Mark Heinrich)