The Visegrad Group (V4) leaders held “exhaustive talks” with French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after the summit in Budapest on Monday.
Orbán told a press conference he held jointly with his V4 counterparts and Macron that the French president had laid out plans and goals of France’s upcoming European Union presidency.
Apart from the “passionate” discussions on the issue and the rule of law and the “thorough and exhaustive” talks on migration, the five leaders also discussed the situation in the Western Balkans and the issue of energy — nuclear power, in particular — as well as the future of the EU’s emissions trading system, Orbán added.
The prime minister said it was a “rare opportunity” for the five of them to be able to “speak openly about such important issues”.
Orbán thanked Macron on behalf of the V4 for his openness and future-mindedness, and for having given the central European grouping the chance to think ahead about the most important goals of the French EU presidency.
In response to a question, the prime minister said he and Macron often had “sharp debates” which he said he enjoyed.
A debate is only bad if there is no “quality” to it, Orbán said, adding that in future, too, he looked forward to having “quality debates” with the French president.
Orbán said this meant that Hungary would always give the president of France the respect he deserved, partly because of who he is and partly because the French president “is highly valued in Hungary”. Orbán praised Charles de Gaulle as a “point of reference”, and he noted that Giscard d’Estaing had visited Hungary to campaign for Fidesz before it won the 1998 general election. He added that he had worked together with Jacques Chirac and noted that Nicolas Sarkozy’s ties to Hungary were well known.
This is why, he said, he showed Macron and France respect by not giving his opinion on French domestic politics.
Orbán said Hungary, along with its secret services, was governed by the rule of law. “When we started out in politics, this was not the case, since we come from the resistance to the communist regime,” the prime minister said. “We came into politics from the world of freedom fighters and street fighters.”
In response to another question, Orbán said Hungary’s economic performance and financial situation were assessed by the market. The euro zone, he said, was a “lukewarm and nice place” where the order of things was determined by the bloc’s Stability and Growth Pact. “But the market is cold and cruel,” he added. “That’s where we have to hold our own,” Orbán said, adding that the value and strength of the Hungarian economy was measured on the markets.
Hungary “is in good shape so far”, he said, adding, at the same time, that the government needed to keep an eye on the budget deficit.
As regards the government’s planned reacquisition of Liszt Ferenc International Airport, Orbán said it was not reasonable to close the deal before the 2022 election given the high rate of inflation and the volatility of the global financial markets.
“So we’ll wait for the elections and decide on this afterwards,” he said.
Orbán also said the EU’s payouts of the pandemic recovery monies Hungary was entitled to were delayed for “political reasons”. He said it was “completely unacceptable” on the part of the European Commission to expect Hungary to amend its law on family rights and education. “What does this have to do with restarting the European economy? What does this have to do with spending the funds sensibly?” he said.
“We’re the victims of political blackmail”,
Orbán said, adding that Hungary’s economy would survive without the funding for a long while yet, and all the relevant projects were under way thanks to state pre-financing.
He said neither the economy nor Hungarians had suffered as a result of “Brussels’ blackmail”.
The prime minister said Hungary had been alone in deciding to put up a physical barrier to protect the border and Europe as a whole, but had been on the receiving end of “the harshest attacks” from “Brussels and several European capitals” for its efforts.
The government, he said, had not taken offence or complained, knowing that it was protecting Europe as well as the country.
But now Hungary’s standpoint had changed, he said, adding that several countries would have to spend serious money to defend themselves and the Schengen border. “It’s high time the European Union showed some solidarity,” he said.
Hungary had supported other EU member states, but Brussels had not reciprocated.
He underlined Hungary’s demand that at least half of the costs of protecting Europe that Hungarian taxpayers borne should be picked up by the EU.