Hungary News Politics & International

What have we learned from Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Budapest?

Budapest, Hungary – Emmanuel Macron visited Budapest to attend the conference of the V4. Before the summit, the French president met Viktor Orbán as well as prominent figures from the opposition.

As it has been argued on various platforms, though at first glance, Viktor Orbán and Emmanuel Macron are political opponents, there are plenty of areas where they are allies. For instance, they both would like to ramp up the EU’s defence capability. Both politicians came out in favour of a common EU army in the past. They are both against external immigration to the EU and in favour of nuclear power.

Speaking to reporters at the V4 summit, the French president indeed acknowledged “political disagreements” with Viktor Orbán, but reiterated that France was willing to “work together for Europe” with Hungary as Paris prepares to take over the EU presidency.

Macron meets with the Hungarian opposition

But the relevant aspect of the visit for the observers of Hungarian politics is Macron’s other meeting. After negotiations with Orbán, Macron met with Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony, the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay, DK’s MEP Klára Dobrev, and Momentum’s new leader, Anna Donáth.The absence of representatives from half of the opposition parties, LMP, MSZP, and Jobbik is noteworthy.

All three parties experienced some disappointment at the primaries earlier this year. MSZP’s decline has been apparent and well documented in the past few years. Their inability to attract the young or find a charismatic voice to represent their party led them to repeatedly choose Párbeszéd’s Gergely Karácsony as their prime ministerial or mayoral candidate. MSZP seems to have lost its identity so much that it lost its seat at symbolically important negotiating tables.

Karácsony’s former party, LMP, was also missing from the lineup after their candidates performed poorly at the primaries. The omission of MSZP and LMP politicians from the meeting suggests that the MSZP-LMP-Párbeszéd merger is still likely to go ahead despite the fact that the reputation of its main figurehead, Gergely Karácsony was wounded significantly during the primaries.

Though Jobbik’s candidates did not do badly at the primaries, the performance of their leader, Péter Jakab is widely considered to have been disappointing. Jakab’s performance is said to have weakened his position within his party, which he is now busy attempting to solidify. Another reason for their absence is their lack of international connections.

Jobbik is still perceived to be toxic in some circles internationally due to its extremist past. As such, it is highly difficult for them to build solid European connections which would have helped facilitate their presence at the meeting.

In contrast to them, Péter Márki-Zay seems to be utilising his newfound fame really well. In the months since his victory at the primaries, he has been regularly meeting up with ambassadors and European politicians, behaving like a de-facto leader of the opposition. He’s also been working on building connections with the European People’s Party, which his new party would like to join, once it is officially formed.

DK’s Klára Dobrev prides herself on her European connections which likely helped her bag the opportunity to attend the meeting. She is also rumoured to be the coalition’s choice for foreign minister, should the opposition win in April, therefore it made sense for Péter Márki-Zay to let her join the meeting with the French president.

The fourth opposition politician present at the meeting was Momentum’s new leader Anna Donáth. After András Fekete-Győr’s abysmal performance during the primaries, Donáth vowed to give a distinctively left-wing identity to Momentum. She started her tenure as leader by shaking things up within the opposition by criticising their inactivity after the primaries. Her attendance at the meeting will likely be a positive boost for Momentum.

She was given a table alongside the opposition’s most prominent politicians which her party’s polling numbers would not necessarily warrant. She likely managed to lobby for her attendance through the European Parliament and Renew Europe where both Momentum and Macron’s En Marche both sit.

Though Macron’s visit has no significant domestic political implications, it clearly demonstrated who had become the most influential figures within the opposition in 2021.

Featured photo by Vivien Cher Benko/PM’s Press Office

By Ábel Bede

Ábel Bede was born in Budapest and has two degrees in History from Durham University. He specialised in Central Europan history and has been contributing to Kafkadesk since 2019. Feel free to check out more of his articles right here!