Macron talks migration, rule of law, energy with V4 leaders

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The issues of immigration, rule of law, the Western Balkans, energy, including nuclear energy, were mainly discussed at the meeting between visiting French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group (V4) countries in Budapest.

“We spoke thoroughly and exhaustively about migration … about the question of the rule of law … about the Western Balkans … about energy, especially about nuclear energy and its ETS (Emissions Trading System) energy billing system,” Hungarian Prime Minister (PM) Viktor Orban told a joint press conference after the meeting on Monday.

Macron arrived in Budapest earlier on Monday. Orban had a bilateral meeting with the French President earlier in the afternoon, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We will agree with President Macron on the issue of patriotism, the strengthening of Europe and European strategic autonomy,” the Hungarian PM said.

Hungary assumes the current presidency of the V4 Group, which includes Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

“Hungary was the only one that said that if necessary, the EU border should be protected with physical force, and thus not only Hungary but the whole of Europe would be protected,” Orban said.

“We didn’t get a single good word, and we even had to suffer the harshest attacks when we defended Europe’s borders, we were regularly shot in the back from Brussels and some European capitals,” he added.

Macron said that he saw a European partner in Orban despite their differences and said that the basics for moving forward were “media plurality, rule of law and the respect of fundamental rights.”

He added that the common areas of understanding between Budapest and Paris were nuclear energy, agriculture and a common European defence policy.

Poland and Hungary were both involved in a long-lasting conflict with the EU over democratic values like rule of law, judicial and press freedom, and human rights.

The European Commission has launched several procedures against both countries, including a new “conditionality” mechanism that ties funding to the rule of law and anti-corruption criteria, and that has held up the release of coronavirus recovery funds to Budapest and Warsaw.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that his country managed to “defend” its borders, which are also the borders of the EU.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said his government was ready to send soldiers to either the Polish frontiers or to the Balkans.

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Eduard Heger underlined that it was important for the V4 countries to state very clearly that despite all the conflicts and disputes, the EU was the only source of development and wealth these countries could count on.

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