Macron visits Orbán - but why?

France's President Macron has met with Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán in Budapest. Both stressed their willingness to cooperate despite differences, and Macron hinted at a concession on migration policy but said that Hungary was too inflexible on the subject of the rule of law for the EU to disburse money from the Covid recovery fund. Commentators discuss the purpose of the meeting.

Open/close all quotes
Contrepoints (FR) /

Emancipating from Germany

It could be that both sides see such meetings as an opportunity to emancipate themselves from Berlin, Contrepoints concludes:

“For Central Eastern Europe, and especially Poland and Hungary, these meetings offer a counterweight to their relations with Germany. The new German government, which emphasises the rule of law and LGBT issues, could be more hostile to them than Merkel's CDU. ... For France, of course, it's about preparing for the EU Council presidency. But the talks also hint at other ambitions. ... Is France trying to multiply its diplomatic rapprochements in a bid to gain more weight vis-à-vis Germany? The focus on countries in Germany's economic sphere of influence, which sometimes have different political positions from Berlin, reinforces this impression.”

Népszava (HU) /

The red line remains

Macron's commitment to cooperating with Budapest should not be interpreted as willingness to compromise on the rule of law, Népszava believes:

“There is nothing strange about European leaders sometimes making compromises even with those who represent a completely different ideology. Macron is now hoping for a successful EU Council presidency - also because he wants to win the presidential election in April. But there has to be a 'red line': the rule of law. ... Macron is aware that you can negotiate and you can even make compromises, but it's taboo to cross that red line. That would destroy his own nimbus.”

Slate (FR) /

All just a show for domestic audiences

This is not the first time Macron and Orbán have made a big show of their differences, Slate's Hungary correspondent Joël Le Pavous reminds readers:

“In the campaign for the European elections in May 2019, Macron and Orbán exchanged blows like in a Western. In early July 2018, the French president concluded that 'the real border of Europe' was the one separating 'progressives' from 'nationalists' such as Orbán. Three weeks later, the Hungarian declared in Bild newspaper that he did not want an EU 'under French leadership'. ... On 26 October of the same year, at a public meeting in Bratislava, Macron criticised the 'mad spirits' in power in Hungary and Poland, who 'lie to their people'. Today Emmanuel Macron and Viktor Orbán continue to instrumentalise their differences to promote their re-election next spring.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Le Pen, Zemmour, and now the president

Macron had to follow suit, the pro-government Magyar Hírlap observes:

“The fact that the two key far-right presidential candidates, Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, have already visited Viktor Orbán clearly didn't escape the attention of the Elysée Palace. The Hungarian prime minister is a point of reference in French politics. ... So much for Orbán's alleged isolation.”