Hungary PM and French president discuss future of Europe
The meeting was initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron. There are many similarities between the Hungarian and French positions, perhaps surprisingly even on the Russia-Ukraine war, even if Macron envisages peace talks later. But the French president also considers it important to maintain contact with Putin, which is why he earlier had a phone conversation with the Russian president that lasted for hours. They also see Brussels' overreach as problematic in some ways, and have very similar views on America's trade war against Europe.
Monday’s discussion was the third official meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. They first met in 2019, also in Paris, and then in Budapest. This time, tthe meeting of he two leaders focused on the future of Europe, writes the Hungarian Origo news portal.
Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine is still the main issue in Europe, as a cease fire seems to be a very distant prospect. President Macron does not fit in the line of Western European leaders in that he takes a much more reserved position regarding arms shipments than Poland and the Baltic states. Besides, he is the only leader of a great power who regularly talks with Putin. The French president is trying to conduct a policy similar to Viktor Orban’s position, who has said several times that one must not shut down all communication channels with Russia.
This January, Mr Macron said that he continued to keep in touch with the Russian president. He added that all countries are responsible for the world order and must help in maintaining it. Talking to El Pais earlier, Mr Macron said that although France supported Ukraine, it also supported maintaining dialogue with Russia, which the West must do by avoiding a verbal escalation of the conflict. The president also complained that there have been no negotiations „in recent weeks”, Origo reports.
Early January, Russian presidential spokesman Dimitry Peskov said that Mr Putin and Mr Macron had been in contact with each other. „Now dialogue is suspended, but at the previous stage that contact was very useful and very constructive, despite all the existing differences, including deep ones.”
Another central issue of the Hungarian-French meeting was how the European Union could respond effectively to the trade war caused by the United States. As is known, Washington consistently exploits the opportunities inherent in a weakening Europe. The US launched one of the largest subsidy schemes in its history in January with the aim of luring green, innovative companies – partly from Europe – overseas.
Thus, on top of the European Union losing more and more energy-intensive companies due to high energy prices, even firms receiving support earlier – who were the backbones for the community and whose businesses would just about become profitable – also began to relocate.
Both President Macron and PM Orban clearly see the negative impacts of the American actions, all leading to the further weakening of Europe’s position. Some kind of response must be given to this in the coming period, otherwise unemployment will increase across the EU, the economy will stagnate, and such a situation could lead to further serious social tensions. It is clear that high inflation, the planned raising of the retirement age and the exodus of industry are already prompting massive demonstrations in France.
Earlier, Mr Macron spoke about the need to take action against protectionist efforts by the US. He even travelled to Washington to ensure that EU goods could continue to have free access to the US market. However, there has been no breakthrough yet.
In addition, the talks also touched on the pressure Washington exerts on the EU in order to take some action against China.
Both PM Orban and President Macron are clearly in favour of maintaining unbroken economic relations with the Asian superpower.
Severing relations in the current economic situation would push the EU into deeper recession. At the forthcoming EU summit, no agreement will be reached on EU sanctions against Beijing to be imposed under pressure from the US.
Origo also notes that the balance of powers within the EU significantly changed after the UK’s departure. In the past, London played a key role in counterbalancing Brussels’s excessive power, in the face of Berlin in many instances. Today, Paris is practically forced to engage in politics under serious pressure from the Brussels commission and Berlin.
Mr Macron’s goal is to tighten French-German cooperation to counter Brussels, and Hungary’s prime minister could be a partner in this effort.
As Berlin continues to share the European Commission’s position on many issues, it is vital for Paris to reduce Brussels’s influence.
A further rearrangement in the balance of powers resulting from the next EP elections was also presumably discussed during the talks, although Mr Macron’s party and Hungary’s ruling parties are members in completely different EP groups.