Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (m) and French President Emmanuel Macron (l) - Photo: PMO

Orbán: France backs Hungary’s EU presidency programme

France also supports Hungary's programme for its upcoming European Union presidency, with its focus on strengthening the European economy, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday.
27. June 2024 6:51

In an interview with Hungarian public media, Orbán noted that Paris was his third stop in a series of meetings with EU heads of state and government after talks in Berlin and Rome. Hungary is taking over the EU’s rotating presidency next month, he said, adding that his talks with Macron had covered French-Hungarian relations and the bloc’s next six months.

“After Berlin and Rome, we reached an agreement here as well and received approval for the next six months under the Hungarian presidency to be about improving the competitiveness of the European economy,” the prime minister said.

Orbán said he and Macron had also touched on EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. He said certain Western Balkan countries had been waiting 15 years to join the EU. “This is incorrect, bad, perhaps even humiliating,” Orbán said.

He said an overwhelming majority of member states wanted the Western Balkan countries, including Serbia, to join the EU as soon as possible, adding that Hungary would work towards this in the coming period.

The prime minister said he and Macron had welcomed the development of bilateral ties and had agreed to further strengthen them.

Currently 45,000-50,000 Hungarian families make a living at French companies, and bilateral trade turnover has doubled in ten years, he said, adding that one of France’s biggest companies was also involved in the Hungarian state’s reacquisition of Liszt Ferenc International Airport.

Orbán said he had met representatives of that company on Tuesday, and today he and Macron had reaffirmed that this was not merely an investment but also a major development programme that was important to both France and Hungary.

He said they had also spoken about European affairs at their meeting.

Orbán noted that France is leading a European nuclear coalition of EU countries that say clean energy is impossible without nuclear energy. Hungary has been a part of the coalition since the beginning, he noted, adding that they had clarified the details of their cooperation in the matter. The prime minister also noted that French companies are also heavily involved in the upgrade of Hungary’s Paks nuclear power plant.

The prime minister said he and Macron had also agreed on expanding their defence industry cooperation. France has already brought defence industry investments to Hungary, but the two countries are also exploring new opportunities for cooperation, he said.

Orbán said the talks had also covered the war, noting that Hungary and France had “significant disagreements” in the matter. “I made it clear to the president that Hungary isn’t concerning itself with either Ukraine or Russia; it’s concerning itself with peace,” the prime minister said.

He said Hungary was not against one country or another, but against war. “It’s the war that we want to stop, so the most important goal for us is for there to be a ceasefire as soon as possible and to prevent further deaths,” the prime minister said.

In response to a question, Orbán said Chinese-Hungarian relations were not a topic of discussion at the meeting. “Everyone knows that Hungary has had balanced and good relations with China since historical times, and China has also elevated its cooperation with Hungary to a very high level,” he said.

He said the EU was aware of China’s role in the modernisation of Hungary’s economy, and China has offered Hungary a role in the modernisation of its own economy. “This entails an ever-increasing economic cooperation, to which the Europeans have no objections, nor can they,” he said.

As regards the EU’s leadership positions, Orbán said the top jobs had been decided, underlining, however, that Hungary had always been in favour of involving everyone in European decisions.

He said it was “not good” if the most important positions for the next five years along with their corresponding programmes were divided up on a party basis “by those who appointed themselves for this”, warning that it was “never good” if there was a “governing party and an opposition, a majority and a minority” in the EU.

Everyone should be included, he said, adding that this step had become “a coalition of the parties supporting the war and migration”, which Hungary had a duty to oppose.

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