Belgium, Brussels – Leaders of the V4 met with the new French President Emmanuel Macron. The meeting ended on a mixed note.
Tensions between Macron and the V4 are not new. During his presidential campaign and as soon as elected President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron made several attacks against the Visegrád countries. Furthermore, Emmanuel Macron used the delocalization of a French Whirlpool factory to Poland as a campaign theme, threatening to sanction Poland for its economical role in the EU and for its “disrespect of European values”.
In an interview given a few days prior to the Brussels’ meeting, Emmanuel Macron made other stances that the V4 leaders disliked. For Macron, Brexit happened “because of workers from eastern Europe who came to occupy British jobs”. The French Republic’s President also underlined that V4 countries are in his opinion profiteers of the EU unwilling to do their part. “Europe is not a supermarket. Europe is a shared destiny. […] The countries in Europe that don’t respect the rules should have to face the political consequences,” Macron added, while targeting the Central European countries opposed to the acceptance of mass immigration.
Eventually, Macron claimed that certain eastern European politicians had “turned their backs on Europe” with “a cynical approach to the union that only served to dispense credit without respecting its values”.
Difficult Attempts Towards a New Dialogue
These attacks of Emmanuel Macron did not go unnoticed by the Central European countries. Poland protested against Macron using their country for his campaign. Later, regarding the attacks against Central Europe in an interview published in eight major European newspapers, the Polish Premier urged Macron to abandon “stereotypes and cliches, sometimes received as offensive”.
Poland also rejected accusations of Macron regarding the supposed lack of freedom by counter-attacking. After the death of a Polish truck driver on the French A16 highway close to Calais, where thousands of migrants abound, the Polish Minister of Interior Mariusz Błaszczak wrote a letter to his French counterpart, the Socialist Gérard Collomb, requiring him to bring back order and security on the French roads, and to do so, he even offered the aid of Polish reinforcements. “This is how we demonstrate solidarity,” told the Polish Minister, recalling that Poland is already helping to secure the borders of Hungary, Bulgaria, and Macedonia.
The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also made comments on Macron before the meeting, describing the 39–year–old French President as a “new boy” whose introduction isn’t too encouraging; he thought the best way to show friendship was to immediately stampede into Central European countries. This isn’t how we do things around here, but he’ll soon get to know his way around”, said the Hungarian PM with a smile.
Although both parties pledge to renew dialogue, there are recognizable disagreements and misunderstandings on both sides. All the leaders agreed for example on the fact that Central and Eastern European low wages are a problem for all Europeans.