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Emmanuel Macron in Budapest talks to Orbán, the V4 and the Hungarian opposition

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France / Hungary / V4 – The President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, visited Hungary on Monday, December 13, where he began with a visit to the tomb of the Marxist philosopher Ágnes Heller, before meeting with his Hungarian counterpart János Áder at the Sándor Palace. In the early afternoon, the French president had a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the Carmelite monastery before attending the V4-France summit. Finally, Emmanuel Macron also spoke with the main leaders of the left-wing opposition during a meeting at the residence of the French Ambassador.

Malicious, Hungary’s Prime Minister began his press conference by telling Emmanuel Macron that Budapest was more suited to visits in the month of May – referring to the fact that in France and Hungary elections will be held in April which will decide  the political future of both leaders.

European defense, nuclear energy and agriculture

During this joint press conference with Emmanuel Macron, Viktor Orbán essentially highlighted what  brings the two statesmen together despite numerous displayed differences:

“We both love our country, we both work to strengthen Europe and we are both committed to Europe’s strategic autonomy,”

he thus underlined.

“We are in favour of a common European defense policy, we are in favour of nuclear energy and we are in favour of a strong European agriculture”.

Adressing the press after the V4-France summit, the Hungarian Prime Minister explained in particular that the French president and the heads of government of the Visegrád Group had addressed “in a deep and exhaustive manner” questions of immigration,  rule of law as well as the Western Balkans and nuclear energy.

For Viktor Orbán, it is essential that European countries move towards more autonomy in energy sectors,  defense and agriculture. All subjects on which Emmanuel Macron’s France can be a strategic partner for the V4 against a socialist-green governed German, hostile to nuclear power and in favor of an agricultural policy harmful to French or Hungarian interests, among others. The proximity of the German Greens to the Atlantist line is also opposed to the European refocusing of its defense.

This meeting with Emmanuel Macron comes at the end of the French president’s European tour  as he is about to take the helm of the rotating presidency of the European Union. Calendar coincidence  or a subliminal message? The fact remains that Budapest is the last capital visited by the French president, who has taken this opportunity to debate with the Visegrád group. A double message well understood in Hungary, and perfectly accepted: Emmanuel Macron and Viktor Orbán even said it repeatedly at a press conference, they are political opponents, but European partners. A pragmatic approach from both parties which, on the Hungarian side, fits in with Viktor Orbán’s balancing act, always looking for new powerful partners to thwart Germany’s disproportionate influence on his country.

The French presidency of the European Union – despite the elections scheduled for  next spring – is of particular importance for Hungary and Poland. The two central European countries are grappling with the European institutions over the subject of conditioning European funds to the question of the rule of law. A sensitive subject, which, for lack of a common definition or prior agreement on the meaning of this requirement, is used a political pressure tool by progressives in Brussels.

Following the summit with the V4, Emmanuel Macron continued his program by going to the residence of the French Ambassador, where he met Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger face to face, before an eschange with representatives of the Hungarian opposition.

Political proximity between Macron and the opposition

While Viktor Orbán received Éric Zemmour in September and very ceremoniously Marine Le Pen at the end of October, Emmanuel Macron did not hesitate, in the middle of the Hungarian electoral campaign, to meet opposition leaders – with the notable exception of Péter Jakab , leader of Jobbik – of the left coalition which intends to dethrone Viktor Orbán next April.

Following their talks with Emmanuel Macron at the residence of the Ambassador of France, the leading figures of the left opposition (Péter Márki-Zay, MMM, candidate for the position of Prime Minister; Gergely Karácsony, PM, mayor of Budapest; Anna Donáth, President of Momentum and Klára Dobrev, DK, MEP) underlined the positive atmosphere of this meeting. Mr. Márki-Zay notably explained that there was little chance that Europe would release the stimulus fund intended for Hungary as long as the “corrupt government” was in business, while Klára Dobrev revealed that Emmanuel Macron had

“Made a firm promise that the rule of law mechanism would be introduced during the French presidency [of the EU – January-June 2022, editor’s note]”.