Diplomats are worried about Hungary taking over the EU's six-month rotating presidency from Monday, with nationalist leader Viktor Orban constantly at odds with Brussels since he returned to power in 2010.

- Against aid for Ukraine -

The Hungarian prime minister is the only EU leader who has maintained close ties with Moscow despite its invasion of Ukraine.

Orban refused to send arms to Kyiv and has called for a ceasefire and peace negotiations, saying he was "fighting for peace alone" in the EU.

The 61-year-old, the bloc's longest serving leader, has also slammed sanctions against Russia and opposes Ukraine's EU ambitions, though he has stopped short of blocking accession talks.

Indeed Budapest seems to revel in taking controversial stances in the EU, opening its presidency under the slogan "Make Europe Great Again", a nod to Orban's "good friend" former US president Donald Trump.

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Under a policy of "eastern opening", Orban has also sought close ties with China.

- Against right to asylum -

A proponent of the "great replacement" narrative, which claims that there is a plot to supplant white Europeans with non-white immigrants, Orban rails against immigration and has heavily restricted the right to asylum, saying he wants to defend a "Christian Europe".

In June, the EU's top court fined Hungary 200 million euros ($214 million) and imposed a daily one-million-euro penalty for failing to follow the bloc's asylum laws and illegally deporting migrants -- a decision Budapest slammed as "unacceptable".

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“EU leaders don't understand the intentions of the current Georgian authorities,” the EU ambassador to Georgia said.

Having erected barbed-wire border fences in response to a surge in migration in 2015, Orban's government also opposes the bloc's recent overhaul of its laws on handling asylum-seekers and migrants.

- Hungary's 'illiberal' turn -

Since coming back to power, Orban has moved to transform his country into what he calls an "illiberal democracy".

The wide-ranging changes he has made include curbs on press freedom and judicial independence.

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He has also clamped down on LGBTQ rights, with a law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors drawing EU infringement proceedings.

Billions of euros in EU funds remain frozen over issues including LGBTQ rights, the treatment of asylum seekers, alleged corruption in public procurement and the independence of academics.

Most recently, Brussels also launched infringement proceedings against Hungary over the creation of what critics say is a Russian-style agency with investigative powers to curb foreign influence.

In 2018, the European Parliament voted to trigger an "Article 7" disciplinary procedure against Hungary -- which could end with it being stripped of its right to vote in EU proceedings -- to determine whether Budapest is undermining European legal standards and democratic values.

- Corruption rife -

In 2022, the European Parliament declared that the central European country was no longer a "full democracy", but a "hybrid regime of electoral autocracy" in "serious breach" of EU democratic norms.

Critics often cite corruption to illustrate Hungary's authoritarian drift, accusing Orban's family and allies of benefiting from EU funds.

Oligarchs Lorinc Meszaros, Orban's childhood friend, and Istvan Tiborcz, Orban's son-in-law, today control large sections of the economy.

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Transparency International -- whose Hungary chapter has come under investigation by the anti-foreign influence agency -- ranks Hungary last among EU countries in its corruption index.

Hungary has also not joined the EU's independent European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), whose job it is to investigate and prosecute EU budget fraud.

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