French President Emmanuel Macron and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban convene in Paris, with high stakes negotiations centered on Hungary's financial concerns and the European Union's (EU) decision to release approximately 10 billion euros of the frozen 30 billion euros funding. The funds were suspended last year after the EU raised concerns over political interference in Hungary's judiciary and alleged corruption, with the release being contingent on Hungary meeting preliminary conditions to address these issues.
Orban's Controversial Tenure and Macron's Diplomatic Challenge
Orban's decade-long rule has sparked intense criticism, with detractors arguing his campaign against liberal democracy has not been adequately reversed. The Hungarian Prime Minister's actions, including his close relationship with Vladimir Putin and his stance against Ukrainian aid, have bolstered his reputation as a controversial figure on the world stage. Macron's diplomatic finesse is put to the test as he seeks to navigate these issues while maintaining unity and consensus within the EU.
The Financial Implications and the EU's Stance
The EU is expected to release about a third of the frozen 30 billion euros funding after Hungary has met an initial set of conditions to reduce political interference in its courts and address corruption. However, critics argue that these measures have done little to reverse Orban's campaign against liberal democracy. The EU's threats seem to have only strengthened Orban's resolve, evident from his close ties with Vladimir Putin, blocking of Ukrainian aid, and opposition to EU accession negotiations with Ukraine.
Other Key Topics on the Table
Other significant topics that might come up during the talks include potential EU antitrust exemptions for Apple's iMessage, Slovakia's proposition to abolish the Special Prosecutor's Office, ongoing negotiations over EU legislation on artificial intelligence, and the G7's agreement to ban Russian diamond imports. The European Central Bank (ECB) also faces market expectations of rate cuts in 2024, despite ongoing inflation concerns.