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Orbán – Macron Meeting: An Occasional Marriage of Convience with Diverse Political Views

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.10.08.

Orbán and Macron will hold a meeting this Friday. Although there’s not a lot of information about what topics they will be discussing, given the highly conflicting relationship between the Hungarian Prime Minister and the French President, some interesting issues could easily come up during their talk. It is also important to note, that in recent years the conflict between the two has often been confined only to words, whereas on specific issues (such as overthrowing Weber) the two politicians have been able to cooperate several times in the past.

The clash between the French and Hungarian leaders has become a regular occurrence in the past years, as their disputes highlight the different approaches of those EU member states that support a more centralized concept of the EU and those more in favor of a nation-state framework. The differences are also prevalent in their attitudes towards migration.

Soon after Macron’s election, the confrontation between the two politicians has started.

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In an interview back in 2017, the French President said 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.”

In his response, Orbán stated that „Macron’s 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.”

In August 2018, Orbán claimed the French president “leads the European force that backs migration” and “wants to blow up the European People’s Party in the same way he has done with the French party system.”

Orbán and Salvini are right to “see me as their main opponent,” Macron responded to the critiques from the Hungarian PM and former Italian Interior Minister.

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At the end of May, an MEP of Emmanuel Macron’s party said it will only be allied with the European People’s Party if Fidesz is not in the party group.

However, last October when speaking about his relationship with Orbán, Macron insisted that he isn’t conducting a “campaign” against the PM. He also emphasized that he respects Orbán as both a person and an elected official stating that they have a good personal relationship. Macron did add, however, that a Europe that belittles freedom of justice and the press, diversity of views and beliefs, or the reception of refugees is no more than “a betrayal of ourselves.”

After this year’s EP elections, (where liberals’ Renew Europe became the third strongest force and a key for the absolute majority in the EP) it is also clear that the integrationist ideas often presented by Macron could continue to win support in the European Parliament despite the (modest) rise of nationalist, Eurosceptic parties.

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Also, after the EP elections, during closed door negotiations about the new President nominee of the European Commission, according to former EPP lead candidate Manfred Weber, it was Macron and Orbán who “killed the Spitzenkandidat process.”

Although there is a huge ideological divide between Macron and Orbán, the sharp contradictions between the two in the EP campaign have in fact brought significant political benefits to both politicians.

Macron was able to attack the EPP through Fidesz without causing serious damage to other members, while Orbán could continue his fight against the Western European member states that are trying to force Hungary to accept migration. Thus, when both politicians have the same goal,  they will cooperate while most likely attacking each other in the press.

Featured photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Office/MTI