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Macron and V4 Leaders Hold Press Conference After Budapest Talks

picture of press conference

On his visit to Budapest yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron held a press conference with heads of government from the Visegrad countries. In addition to host Viktor Orbán, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, and Prime Minister Eduard Heger of Slovakia all took part in the event.

Viktor Orbán stated that they had “thoroughly and exhaustively” discussed migration, and had “thoroughly, exhaustively, and passionately” gone over the rule of law issue as well. Other topics of discussion in the V4-France summit were the Western Balkans and energy, particularly nuclear energy and the ETS energy accounting system.

As the Hungarian Prime Minister put it, rarely do they get the opportunity to speak so openly about such important issues.

In his speech, Emmanuel Macron spoke about the fact that the European Union is going through a number of intertwined crises, with the migration crisis now critical for Poland. He hopes to carry out a complete reform of the Schengen system when France takes over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on January 1, including a review of the rules on external border protection and expelling migrants to their country of origin.

Speaking on the rule of law, the French President said he knew it was a sensitive issue and noted different positions on it. However, he stated that the fight against discrimination and the protection of minorities was an existential issue for the future of the EU. He assured his partners of his good intentions, and stressed that they needed to find the opportunity to make progress in this area as well.

Eduard Heger also spoke about the challenges facing the EU and globally, including the climate crisis. Both Andrej Babis and Mateusz Morawiecki mentioned migration, with Babis defending Viktor Orbán’s defense of Europe with his border fence, and Morawiecki reminding them that that Poland was defending the eastern border of the EU and NATO.

The only Hungarian press allowed at the event was public television channel M1, but a member of the foreign press managed to ask the Hungarian Prime Minister about the Pegasus spyware scandal. In response, Orbán stated that Hungary was a country governed by the rule of law, and that the rule of law, which is always observed, governs the operation of its intelligence services.

Also in response to a question, Orbán stated that Hungary would not be getting its share from the EU Recovery Fund due to political reasons. He said it was completely unacceptable for the European Commission to call for a change in Hungary’s laws on family and on education.

“What does this have to do with restarting the European economy? What has this got to do with using money wisely?” Orbán asked. The Hungarian Prime Minister sees Hungary as a victim of “political blackmail,” but the Hungarian economy is strong enough to survive long-term without these funds.

Viktor Orbán also complained that Hungary had not only not received any praise, but had to suffer harsh attacks all while defending Europe’s borders against migrants.

We were regularly shot in the back from Brussels and some European capitals.

-stated Prime Minister Orbán.

He sees that the situation has changed now, and it is time for the European Union to show some solidarity so that Brussels can provide a fair accounting for the cost of defending Europe that is due to each country.

[HVG]

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Posted in Foreign Relations

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