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Orbán's new approach: Purpose of Hungarian PM visit to Kyiv and Meloni's role

Orbán's new approach: Purpose of Hungarian PM visit to Kyiv and Meloni's role Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Getty Images)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's visit to Ukraine is important for normalizing bilateral relations between Kyiv and Budapest. He now wants to establish constructive relations with his Italian counterpart, Giorgia Meloni, and he needs to change his position on Ukraine to do that, says political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

Possible Orbán's goal

According to the expert, this visit has a special purpose for Orbán. The fact is that Hungary's presidency in the EU Council begins on July 1. The Hungarian prime minister needs to demonstrate his political weight as a representative of the EU to not to ruin his presidency, or make it purely conflictual, and, in the end, possibly fail.

"He has a certain constructive position here. Since the Ukrainian issue is one of the main issues for the European Union, Orbán must also take this into account. In this case, he is showing he is the leader of the country that currently holds the presidency of the European Union," explains Fesenko.

Secondly, there are serious disputes between Hungary and Ukraine. And Budapest is putting pressure for strengthening the status of the Hungarian minority, the expert recalls.

"Although there is actually no infringement of their rights there. Anyone who has been to Zakarpattia knows perfectly well that there are no problems with the language rights of Hungarians or any other problems there at all. Moreover, it is the wealthiest community in Zakarpattia, and perhaps in all of Ukraine. But nevertheless, Orbán tried to push directly, but it didn't quite work," Fesenko noted.

According to the political scientist, the Hungarian prime minister is now trying to influence Ukraine through negotiations. So, he needs to demonstrate not only rigidity but also flexibility to achieve his goals.

"Because we still have several years of difficult negotiations ahead of us, and disputes between Hungary and Ukraine will continue. So Orbán is changing his tactics in this case," Fesenko believes.

What Meloni has to do with it

And the third circumstance, which is also very important, is that Orbán is now interested in easing relations with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Although she is also a person with extreme right-wing views, there are still disputes between them.

"Meloni is now forming a united faction of the far right in the European Parliament. Orbán would like to have ties with them, although he claims to form his own faction, but he may not have enough votes. That's why he now wants to establish constructive relations with Meloni, but to do so, he needs to change his position on Ukraine. This is Meloni's condition," explains Fesenko.

That is why, according to many analysts, Orbán changed his position at the EU summit and began to demonstrate publicly on TV his willingness to contact Zelenskyy, negotiate with him and communicate, the political scientist says.

"And now it is also a demonstration that he is ready to seek compromises with Zelenskyy. So this Orbán's tactic is driven by his domestic interests, but also by foreign policy," Fesenko summarized.

Today Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán arrived in Kyiv for the first time since the beginning of full-scale Russian aggression. He has not visited the Ukrainian capital in over a decade. Orbán is expected to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The parties will discuss "the possibility of establishing peace" and current issues of Hungarian-Ukrainian bilateral relations.

The Hungarian prime minister, who is known for his pro-Russian views, promised in an interview on the eve of his visit to take "the first steps" to establish peace in Ukraine.

Read more about Orbán's attitude to Ukraine and his today's visit to Kyiv in a separate RBC-Ukraine report.