PARIS — Hungary won’t become a member of an EU startup alliance anytime soon since Viktor Orbán’s right-wing government in Budapest disagrees with the group’s inclusion and diversity efforts.
Up until now, 15 EU countries have joined the European Startup Nations Alliance (ESNA), which was created in 2021 aiming to improve and harmonize startup policy across the bloc.
But as the only EU country yet to sign a declaration of intent to join, Hungary is holding out on the club, which wants members to sign up to a set of eight policy best practices for startups.
“[Hungary] had disagreements on the seventh standard, which was inclusion and diversity,” ESNA’s manager Arthur Jordão told POLITICO at VivaTech, a tech and startup fair in Paris. “From what I know, they didn’t sign for that reason. But whenever they do, we’re ready to embrace them.”
The Hungarian government did not respond to POLITICO’s repeated requests for comment.
The inclusion and diversity clause says that countries have “to deploy actions to support diversity and inclusion in their startup policies,” with suggestions such as giving incentives to hiring based on diversity of ethnicity, gender, religion, age and sexual orientation.
The reason why other EU countries haven’t joined yet — even those who have signed the declaration of intent — is mostly because they’re still figuring out which national representative to send to the alliance, Jordão said.
Hungary’s refusal could create problems for the governance of the startup group.
The group’s board consists largely of countries that just held, or are about to hold the rotating Council presidency of the EU. Hungary is scheduled to take over the presidency in July 2024. Current leader Sweden isn’t part of ESNA either but positive discussions with Stockholm to join as a member are ongoing, Jordão said.