Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: Visegrad Group ‘makes sense despite differences in opinion’

The Visegrad cooperation has "meaning and future" despite differences in opinion on support for Ukraine, the Hungarian prime minister said after attending a summit of the Visegrad Group in Prague on Tuesday.

“Today’s meeting convinced me that Visegrad is alive and important. We are able to respectfully acknowledge our differences even if we debate each other’s stances. We continue to strengthen cooperation in joint issues. Hungary is ready to do that,” Orbán told a press conference.

The Czech, Polish and Slovak prime ministers also acknowledged differences and took a stance for continued cooperation.

Orbán said the summit “was not one of the easiest ones” as it had focused on “self-reflection” and on whether the Visegrad Group should be maintained in its current form.

He noted that a similar meeting had taken place after the EU integration of the Visegrad countries, ending in the decision to maintain cooperation.

The war in Ukraine “has overwritten everything”, and so the issue was back on the table, Orbán said.

The prime ministers of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia were in agreement that Russia’s attack on Ukraine had been a “gross violation of international law”, and that Ukraine needed aid, Orbán said. “Hungary has another issue, namely that it wants to avoid having a joint border with Russia again, as it had bad experiences in the past,” he added.

“One of the most important baselines of Hungarian national security is to have an entity between us and Russia. We help Ukraine also out of our own national interest,” he said.

At the same time, Orbán said the Visegrad countries disagreed on “how to help Ukraine well”.

“Hungary’s stance is clear: we shall not send weapons to Ukraine, with or without troops, but are ready to provide any other aid,” he said, noting the country’s efforts on humanitarian aid and care to Ukrainian refugees.

Despite those differences, Orbán said carrying on with the Visegrad cooperation “makes sense”.

Cooperation has been successful on issues such as illegal migration “as the matter of [mandatory resettlement] quotas is not off the table”. “Without our cooperation, tens or hundreds of thousands of migrants would be roaming our countries.”

Responding a question, all four prime ministers said their countries were not considering to send troops to Ukraine.

Robert Fico of Slovakia said his country “will give all aid needed to Ukraine, except for weapons and ammunition.”

Petr Fiala of Czechia and Donald Tusk of Poland said they would be ready to continue to provide weapons and ammunition.

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