Friday has seen the visit of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to Prague, where he has been meeting his counterpart Andrej Babis, as well as Czech President Miloš Zeman. Migration, economic interests and V4 collaboration have been the main topics on the agenda.
Speaking at a joint press conference on Friday morning, Mr. Babiš had warm words indeed for his domestically popular yet internationally controversial Hungarian counterpart.
“Hungary is a traditional and close partner of ours. I can tell you that for the period since I have been in office, the prime minister is our friend. He is my friend. Our relations are truly above standard. I think that it was the two of us, most of all Mr. Orbán, who first critically highlighted the problem of migration and quotas in Europe.”
Aside from a reaffirmation to the current policy on migration, both Mr. Babiš turned to what both see as increasing cooperation between the two countries. Already in August, the two prime ministers discussed increasing economic cooperation particularly in the sphere of defence industry and its importance was highlighted again on Friday.
On the level of the Visegrád Four collaboration, transport infrastructure and trade relations with Germany were discussed.
While both men had kind words for each other, some have seen the recent decision by the Czech Foreign Ministry to cancel the Czech embassy in Budapest for financial considerations as slightly spoiling the taste. The Czech President Miloš Zeman, who is also meeting with Mr. Orbán said that he would apologise for the move and attempt to halt it.
Yet whatever the surrounding issues, Masaryk University lecturer Vratislav Havlík, who specialises in EU politics, says that the good relationship between the two leaders is unlikely to disintegrate unless they both have pragmatic reasons for it.
“Orbán very pragmatically needs Babiš. He needs the support of Visegrád. He needs a strong wall against the west. But he does not get it as often as he would like to from Babiš. In general the relationship seems to be going fine. But let’s not forget that could change very quickly because they are both pragmatic.”
Asked about whether it is legitimate to make connections between Andrej Babiš and Viktor Orbán, Mr. Havlík agrees there are some connections, but says that one should not jump to assumptions too fast.
“People try to compare them, but I think we can compare them just partially. Orbán is a populist, but he has a strong ideology. His view is very nationalist. Babiš on the contrary has no ideology. He is just populist and he only misuses these topics, which is good for him now. His electorate listens to these topics.“
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