Statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the M1 news channel following his meeting with President of France Emmanuel Macron

26 June 2024, Paris

Csaba Joó: Prime Minister, your meeting with President Macron ended a few minutes ago. What was it about? What was the atmosphere at the meeting?

This is the third stage in our series of negotiations in Europe. We started in Berlin, continued in Rome, and now we’re negotiating in Paris. Hungary is holding the rotating presidency of the EU, so we had two topics: French–Hungarian bilateral relations; and the next six months in the EU. We have been pleased to see the development of French–Hungarian relations, and we remain confident that we will strengthen them. At the moment, forty to fifty thousand Hungarian families owe their livelihoods to French-owned companies operating in Hungary. And in the past ten years our trade volume has doubled. Now that we’ve succeeded in buying back Budapest airport, one of the largest French companies is also our professional and business partner in this, and I had talks with them yesterday; but today we confirmed with the President that this is not only an investment project, but also a major development programme, which is important for France and for Hungary. Then we talked about European affairs. The French lead the European Nuclear Alliance, a group of countries which believe that there can be no clean energy and no clean economy without nuclear energy. Hungary is a founding member of this alliance, and so has been a member from the very beginning. Here we have clarified the steps in this cooperation. French companies are also deeply involved in construction work on the Paks nuclear power plant. We’ve agreed to broaden cooperation in the defence industry. There is already French defence industrial investment in Hungary. We’re looking for new opportunities for cooperation. And, most importantly, I’ve reached an agreement with the French president on his support for the Hungarian EU presidency’s programme, which focuses on strengthening the European economy. So, after Berlin and Rome, we’ve also received an agreement from Paris, we’ve also concluded an agreement here, and we’ve received approval for the main focus of the next six months in Europe under the Hungarian presidency: improving the competitiveness of the European economy.

Enlargement of the EU to include the Western Balkans has always been important for Hungary. Are they supporting us in this? Can there be movement on this in the next six months?

Enlargement to include the Western Balkans is a hot potato around here. Everyone’s throwing it around to everyone else. We Hungarians don’t think like that. Countries in the Western Balkans have been waiting to join the EU for fifteen years. This is improper, wrong, and perhaps even humiliating. This is no way to treat independent countries. Sooner or later, one way or another, something must be said. The Hungarian presidency is working on getting a statement saying whether or not we want them. I see that there’s an overwhelming majority of countries that want to see the countries of the Western Balkans – including Serbia – within the European Union as soon as possible. In other words, we want that region to become part of the European Union. Hungary will work for this in the coming period.

President Macron is one of the most vocal supporters of Ukraine. Was the question of the war raised?

Of course we talked about that, too. Opinions on this differ significantly. I made it clear to the President that Hungary’s concern is not Ukraine or Russia: Hungary’s concern is peace. Hungary isn’t against one country or the other, but against the war. We want to stop the war, so for us the most important objective is to achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible, and to stop more people dying.

A few weeks ago the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, was in Europe – he was both here in Paris and in Budapest. Here in Paris he received an extremely positive reception from the press, but they objected to the fact that we received a visit from him. Was this discussed?

It wasn’t mentioned. Sino–Hungarian relations are well known in the European Union. Everyone knows that historically Hungary has had balanced and good relations with China. China has also placed Hungary at a very high level in terms of cooperation. They know that China is participating in the modernisation of the Hungarian economy, and they know that China has offered us the opportunity to participate in the modernisation of the Chinese economy. This means ever-increasing economic cooperation, which the Europeans have no objection to – nor can they have any objection to it.

There have been several media articles related to something that you yourself have spoken about: a series of secret negotiations is under way on how European posts can be allocated on a party basis. Did you talk about this?

That happened. I expressed my opinion that – perhaps due to its size and its traditions – Hungary has always favoured involving everyone in European decisions. It’s not right that the most important positions for the next five years, together with the corresponding programme, should be allocated on a party basis by those who have assigned themselves to those positions. It’s never right that there should be a governing party and an opposition in the European Union, that there should be a majority and a minority, and that everyone should be involved. But this move has instead become a coalition of pro-war and pro-migration parties in the European Union, which Hungary has a duty to oppose.