Macron heads to Hungary to get Orban on board for France's EU presidency

French president Emmanuel Macron meets with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban this Monday.
French president Emmanuel Macron meets with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban this Monday. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

French president Emmanuel Macron will meet Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest this Monday, as France prepares to take up the rotating EU presidency, in a bid to find common ground with his opponent on issues such as investment, nuclear power and European defence.


Macron's trip to Hungary, which will allow the French president to complete his tour of the 26 other EU capitals, will take place in the context of a summit of the Visegrad group countries currently chaired by Orban.

Speaking before the weekend, Macron said: "[Orban] is a political adversary, but a European partner. Whatever our political sensitivities ... we must work together for  Europe."

"It is very clear that on the subject of the rule of law, there will be disagreements," Macron added, but he believes on subjects of sovereignty and economic growth they will find useful compromises.

Viktor Orban has often been cited by Emmanuel Macron as the leader of a nationalist and sovereignist camp in the EU, which opposes "progressive" Europhiles.

Along with Poland, Hungary has adopted several laws that have been contested in Brussels, notably against the depiction of homosexuality to children under 18.

The search for common ground

Under Orban, Hungary's stance on homosexuality is cited as one of the most draconian regimes against the LGBT community in Europe.

And like Warsaw, Budapest is challenging the supremacy of European law over national legislation. 

In response, the European Commission has launched several judicial procedures against both countries for infringing the rule of law and EU values - in particular a "conditionality" mechanism for European aid, which blocks the payment of subsidies for economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The two leaders, however, had already found common ground when Emmanuel Macron hosted Viktor Orban at the Elysée Palace in October 2019, particularly on border protection and the need for united European defence.

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