Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's first visit to Ukraine during the war – NRK Urix – Foreign News and Documentaries

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's first visit to Ukraine during the war – NRK Urix – Foreign News and Documentaries

Orban, who has been described as the EU's most Putin-friendly prime minister, arrived in the Ukrainian capital just before 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

There he will meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. The two will discuss the possibility of achieving peace and cooperation between the countries, Orban's spokesman told Reuters.

Brake pad for ukraine support

There may not be much love between the two heads of state who are meeting today.

Belgium EU Summit

EU meeting in Brussels in February 2023. Zelensky is second from the right in the front row, with Orban directly behind.

Photo: Virginia Mayo/AFP

Orban has been vocal in his criticism of the West’s military support for Ukraine. He is one of the few Western leaders to have met Putin since the war began, and one of the few to have met no He visited Ukraine during the same period.

Of the 27 EU heads of state, Orban was the only one to receive a New Year's greeting from Putin on the eve of 2023.

At the same time, reaching out to Putin could be interesting for Zelensky. As long as there is an open channel between the top Russian and Hungarian levels, the possibility of reaching out to an increasingly isolated Moscow is possible.

But there is a lot of beauty to swallow if diplomacy is to win the day.

A woman in Kyiv hangs a picture of a Ukrainian soldier on a memorial wall for those killed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

A woman in Kyiv hangs a picture of a Ukrainian soldier on a memorial wall for those killed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Photo: Anatoly Stepanov/AFP

During a meeting of EU leaders last December, Orban left the room to avoid voting against a proposal to open membership negotiations for Ukraine.

Orbán’s government also vetoed seven bills that would have given Ukraine more than €6 billion worth of arms, a proposal that was supported by the other 26 member states.

His government claims that Kiev has failed to guarantee the rights of the country's Hungarian minority.

“Make Europe Great Again”

The visit to Kiev comes the day after Hungary took over the presidency of the Council of European Ministers. The presidency of the Council rotates, with Orban taking the seat for the next six months.

The presidency is largely symbolic, and the cabinet adopts laws proposed by the European Commission. But it gives Orbán the power to set the EU’s agenda for the rest of 2024.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels on June 27.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels on June 27.

Photo: Gert Vanden Wejnegert/AFP

He enters the leadership under the slogan “Make Europe Great Again,” a clear reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan in the United States. He likes to make the same reference in speeches he gives on home soil as well – “Make Hungary Great Again.”

Because although he now holds a senior position in the European Union, the prime minister is known to be a troublemaker in the union.

In recent years, he has seized numerous opportunities to block, water down or postpone important EU decisions, especially in areas where the rest of the bloc has been mostly coordinated, such as the war in Ukraine and relations with Russia and China.

Zelensky congratulates Orban

Zelensky congratulated Orban on the presidency on the 10th yesterday.

Image: Screenshot, X / Screenshot, X

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Eva Sarvi, senior lecturer in Eastern European Studies at UiO, points out that there is a difference between the Hungarian people and Orbán's government when it comes to the EU.

– The vast majority of people believe Hungary is part of Europe and have a positive view of the EU. But the government is skeptical, she told NRK on Tuesday morning.

Orban does not want to leave the EU, but he has made clear that he wants to change it – from within.

During the European Parliament election campaign last June, he spoke of “invading Brussels,” the Belgian capital where the EU’s leadership is based.

On Sunday, he launched a new alliance in the European Parliament called “Patriots for Europe” with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria and the leader of the Czech populist party ANO.

Supporters of Hungary's ruling party march ahead of EU elections in Budapest

A week before the European Parliament elections, Orbán held a peace march in Budapest. He went to the polls to end Western support for Ukraine, which he claims is keeping the war alive.

Photo: Bernadette Szabo/Reuters

The three leaders signed a “national manifesto” that included promises of peace, security and development instead of “war, migration and stagnation”, which they believe were delivered by the “Brussels elite”.

Hungary wants to get as much money as possible from the EU, which has so far withheld some funds from them. They also want to show their voters that they can deliver on the policy they promised, says Sarfi.

In this sense, the presidency of the Council of Ministers is an opportunity to do so.

This period also gives Orban a place in the diplomatic spotlight. The visit to Kiev was the beginning of this.



02.07.2024 at 09.25


02.07.2024 at 10.27

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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