Hungary calls France partner before Macron-Orban meeting


French President Emmanuel Macron greets a guest at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, December 1, 2021. REUTERS / Sarah Meyssonnier

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  • France and Hungary disagree on a number of issues
  • Both highlight points of agreement ahead of Macron’s visit

BUDAPEST / PARIS, December 13 (Reuters) – Hungary has said it agrees with France on several issues of strategic importance to Europe’s future as it prepares for talks on Monday between the Prime Minister Viktor Orban and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron, who was due to start a trip to Budapest by visiting the grave of a philosopher opposed to Orban, said last week that the Hungarian leader was a political opponent but also a European partner with whom it was possible to find a compromise.

In a video posted on his Facebook page, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also called the two European Union countries partners and opponents.

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“We also agree on the importance of protecting (the EU’s) external borders,” Szijjarto said, days after Macron said protecting and controlling the EU’s borders was one of the main France’s goals during its six-month presidency starting in January.

Macron and Orban disagree on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and the European Commission’s criticism of Hungary over democratic standards and the rule of law.

Macron spoke of a “cultural battle” with Hungary and some of its neighbors which he said undermines EU cohesion, and French officials said he would strengthen respect for LGBT rights and the Rule of law with Orban.

Areas where leaders have found common ground include pressure from the EU to promote nuclear energy and recognize it as a green investment.

Macron’s planned visit to the grave of Hungarian philosopher Agnes Heller follows a meeting they had before her death in 2019. Holocaust survivor Heller was a liberal democracy advocate who accused Orban of undermining the democracy.

Macron was also due to attend a meeting of the Visegrad Group, which includes leaders from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and meet with leaders of the opposition alliance that is expected to challenge Orban during ‘an election next year.

Orban has received over the past two months far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, candidates for next year’s French presidential election in which Macron is expected to run for a second term.

Both praised Orban’s opposition to immigration and Zemmour praised his defense of “the identity, sovereignty and borders of his country”.

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Additional reporting by Michel Rose and Anita Komuves; Written by Ingrid Melander, edited by Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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