A humorous article in the Croatian newspaper Vecerji.hr analyzing the recently published photo of a shared dinner table between Croatian President Zoran Milanovic and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, comes up with a noteworthy conclusion. The writing by Tomislav Krasnec seems to have found an explanation as to how two leading politicians, known for their jibes at each other’s expense, managed to bury the hatchet and share a friendly meal in the Croatian holiday resort town of Hvar.
According to media reports, it was Milanovic who invited the Hungarian PM for dinner when he heard that he was spending his holidays nearby. This is a somewhat surprising fact, given that for years the two politicians could not see eye-to-eye. The “romance,” according to Krasnec had started as far back as the Madrid NATO summit in June, when television cameras caught the two leaders walking side-by-side in the Prado Museum. But what could have brought them together?
Milanovic had called Viktor Orbán “Europe’s least desirable person,” a “small dictator,” and even went as far as saying that Hungary is the “appendix of Europe.” The Hungarian Prime Minister has in turn listed Milanovic in the past among left-wing politicians, such as Olaf Scholz or Matteo Renzi, who have broken a tooth while trying to take a bite out of Hungary.
According to the Croatian journalist, it is Milanovic who is drifting closer to the Hungarian Prime Minister’s political stances, not vice versa. Orbán, for instance, has warned against rushed European sanctions against Russia, especially as far as energy resources are concerned, which had earned him a barrage of criticism from the dominant European press and some politicians accusing him of being too close to Putin. However, in recent days, other Italian and German politicians have come closer to accepting that energy sanctions hurt the European economy more than they do the Russian. Milanovic seems to have adopted this conclusion himself.
In a recent statement, the Croatian head of State remarked that European sanctions have not hurt Russia, “if this was their intention at all.” On the contrary, they have hurt Croatia a lot. His statement reflects an amount of Euro-skepticism, another area where the two politicians could find common ground. Despite the usual media narrative, Orbán’s Euro-skepticism is not the type that strives to belittle European values or the need for a systemic European co-operation. Instead, his complaint is with the current European leadership he views as working directly against what should be regarded as traditional European values, and which is in violation of the EU’s founding principles. In the past, Milanovic has also expressed criticism with the direction Brussels is steering the European ship.
According to the Croatian newspaper, there is no doubt about Orbán being the more influential European politician of the pair, and it seems that Milanovic has unwittingly walked into Orbán’s camp. It remains to be seen whether this is a start to a closer political alliance, or whether Milanovic will go on being a “lone ranger.”
Featured photo via 24sata.hr