Hungary calls France a partner before Macron-Orban meeting - Metro US

Hungary calls France a partner before Macron-Orban meeting

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris

BUDAPEST/PARIS (Reuters) – Hungary said it agreed with France on several issues of strategic importance for Europe’s future as it prepared for talks on Monday between 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 who opposed Orban, said last week the Hungarian leader was a political opponent but also a European partner with whom it was possible to find compromise.

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

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

Macron and Orban are at odds over issues including immigration, LGBT rights and the executive European Commission’s criticism of Hungary over democratic standards and rule of law.

Macron has pointed to a “cultural battle” with Hungary and some of its neighbours which he says is hurting EU cohesion, and French officials said he would raise respect of LGBT rights and the rule of law with Orban.

Areas where the leaders have found common ground include pushing the EU to promote nuclear energy and recognise it as green investment.

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

Macron was also expected to take part in a meeting of the Visegrad group, which includes leaders of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and to meet leaders of the opposition alliance that is set to challenge Orban in an election next year.

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

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

(Additional reporting by Michel Rose and Anita Komuves; Writing by Ingrid Melander, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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