Orban’s an EU outcast after Moscow and Beijing trips

Cozy chats with Putin and Xi anger the European Union as Hungary takes over the rotating presidency

Distinguishing your friends from your enemies has become futile in the reality diplomacy show known as geopolitics. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban found that out during a fleeting trip to China earlier this week.

Or maybe he was too consumed by his ego that he simply did not care.

In this upside-down world, Orban shook hands with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing just hours after sitting down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to talk about the war in Ukraine.

The images of this charade in the name of “peace” were excruciating, especially since Hungary had just assumed the European Union’s rotating presidency this month. The European Commission was not amused.

“Prime Minister Orban has not received any mandate from the EU Council to visit Moscow,” a statement released from Brussels pointed out.

“The EU position on Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is reflected in many European Council conclusions. That position excludes official contacts between the EU and President Putin,” it added.

In short, Orban was “not representing the EU in any form.” 

Orban’s trip has reinforced his status as a pro-Russian troublemaker.

Trivium, a research group

Jaw, jaw, while there is war, war:

  • Orban has been a critic of Western military aid to Ukraine. 
  • At the same time, he has close relationships with Putin and Xi.
  • Reuters news agency reported that the German “Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Orban does not speak for Europe and Hungary’s politics do not represent EU thinking.”

Delve deeper: Research group Trivium spelled out the hard facts of life with a dose of realpolitik about Orban’s shuttle diplomacy before turning up at the NATO Summit.

Between the lines: “If [he] thought he could convince Xi to play a more active role in mediating the Ukraine crisis, he thought wrong. China’s official position has barely changed since the beginning of the war,” Trivium pointed out 

Big picture: “Orban’s trip has reinforced his status as a pro-Russian troublemaker and drawn sharp criticism from other EU leaders,” the research consultancy, specializing in China’s economy and politics, said.

China Factor comment: Again, Trivium summed up the mood perfectly in Brussels, warning that “Beijing’s deepening ties with Budapest” will “set off alarm bells,” and “provide a backdoor for” China “to influence EU policy.”