Warsaw, Poland – Everything may not be what it seems, especially when it comes to the relationship between Jean-Claude Juncker and Viktor Orban.
In an interview with Polish daily Rzeczpospolita and media from the other Visegrad Group countries, outgoing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that Viktor Orban, whom he holds “in the highest regard”, “has always been a hero”.
“For me, he has always been a hero. I also have a good personal relationship with him. And I am sure he would say the same of me”, the EU executive chief said, reminding that he has known him since the second half of the 1990’s when Orban first became Prime Minister.
“For years I called Orban, privately, a dictator, and he would laugh about it”, Juncker added, referring to his famous greeting of the Hungarian Premier, during an EU summit in Riga, with the words “Hello, dictator”, in front of the world’s cameras.
The two leaders have repeatedly clashed over the past few years on a number of key EU issues, including migration and rule of law.
The Hungarian PM recently came under fire for launching an anti-EU campaign with billboards directly targeting Juncker, along with Orban’s bête-noire George Soros. The incident, along with long-standing frictions and tensions, led to Orban’s Fidesz’ suspension from the European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest political grouping in the EU Parliament of which Juncker is also a member.
As Politico reports, Jean-Claude Juncker also came back, during the interview, on his relations with Central Europe, often seen as particularly rocky amid growing tensions with the V4 and rule-of-law infringement proceedings launched against both Hungary and Poland during his mandate.
“I’m confident that in a few years’ time, these issues won’t be troubling us anymore”, he said, denying allegations he positioned himself against Central European countries during his term as head of the EU Commission.
The EU chief and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg also deplored that Poland’s de-facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski “never answered [his] request for a meeting”, and that both men haven’t met face-to-face since 2005.