Macron pushes European 'unity' in sit-down with Orban

France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) welcomes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R), before a working dinner at the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris on March 13, 2023. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Paris, France -- French President Emmanuel Macron received far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the Elysee Palace on Monday for a working dinner where he underscored the need for European "unity" on the Ukraine war, the president's office said.

Unlike most European leaders, Orban has been openly critical of the bloc's stance on the conflict, slamming what he has described as an "indirect war" being waged against Russia while calling for a ceasefire.

At Monday's dinner, Macron "reaffirmed the need for the unity of European countries in their support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, particularly via the strict application of sanctions", according to the president's team.

The pair also touched on the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO.

Hungary and Turkey are the only two members of the 30-nation alliance not to have ratified both countries' bids.

Budapest is highly reliant on Russian energy imports, and Orban has vowed to maintain ties with the Kremlin while refusing to send weapons to Kyiv. He has also criticised sanctions against Moscow, though Hungary eventually sided with its EU partners on the matter.

Hungary is also engaged in a long-running row with the European Union over concerns in Brussels about corruption.

In December, Brussels froze billions of euros' worth of funds pending anti-corruption reforms expected from Budapest.

Also on the agenda at Monday's dinner, which came ahead of a European Council meeting later this month, were the issues of industrial competitiveness and migration, with Orban having come under fire in the past for his policies against non-European refugees.

© Agence France-Presse

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