Hungarian Prime Minister and current EU Council President Viktor Orbán has visited Ukraine for the first time in more than a decade. In a meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky, he proposed a quick ceasefire as a basis for peace negotiations, urging the Ukrainian leader to rethink his demand that the withdrawal of Russian troops must come first. Commentators take stock.

Call for peace lacks substance

La Repubblica criticises Orbán's conduct:

“During the talks he emphasised the need to start negotiations quickly. It's just a pity that the government in Budapest has made no secret of its closeness to the Kremlin since the beginning of the Russian aggression and has systematically boycotted all EU measures against Moscow. Moreover, Orbán has organised this mission at the same time as he is building a new, clearly pro-Russian group in the European Parliament. The Ukrainian leader's response that a just peace is needed left no doubt that Orbán's proposal is flimsy, to say the least.”


Don't rule out Hungary as mediator

Orbán's unique position in the European constellation makes him interesting as a potential mediator despite his shortcomings, Telegraf believes:

“Orbán did not come with secret messages from Putin, Trump or anyone else. He wants to negotiate a place for himself as one of the mediators in future negotiations. Such a position is crucial for him for two reasons. Firstly, he has serious internal problems with the opposition. ... And secondly, he has problems with the EU. The position of mediator would help him to solve both. ... Not involving such a unique country in negotiations would be a big mistake. It's definitely worth a try. ... And it's important that Ukraine doesn't sell itself short.”

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Change of stance unlikely

On the hvg podcast Fülke, hvg journalist András Németh says that despite the visit he does not expect Viktor Orbán to pursue a pro-Ukrainian policy:


“He has stood by the Russian viewpoint to such an extent that it would be very difficult for him to extricate himself from it. ... If you look at those who are joining forces in his new parliamentary group - Andrej Babiš from the Czech Republic, Herbert Kickl from Austria - you see politicians who are not at all pro-Ukrainian. ... I would be very surprised if Viktor Orbán were to radically change his policy towards Ukraine.”

Kyiv can't sidestep Budapest

For the pro-government paper Magyar Nemzet it's not Orbán's stance that has changed, but Ukraine's:

“Hungary makes no secret of the fact that it does not consider the sanctions against Moscow to be effective. It continues to block both arms deliveries to Ukraine and the deployment of soldiers. ... It is not Hungary's stance that has changed, but perhaps Kyiv's. We expect quite a lot from Ukraine, whose EU accession conditions - as a Hungarian diplomatic success - include a guarantee of the protection of national minorities. Our country will closely monitor its compliance. ... But in the long term Kyiv expects far more from Europe. However, it must realise that we are and will remain part of it.”


Talking is better than nothing

Aktuálně.cz gives the Ukrainians a piece of advice:

“You should talk to Orbán and tell him: Okay, you don't understand that Ukraine has the right to defend itself and that this is important to us. But at least don't get in the way and don't prevent others from helping the Ukrainians. Just as Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk did at the meeting of the four Visegrád prime ministers in Prague. According to a source from Orbán's delegation, Tusk and Orbán yelled so much at each other over Ukraine that you could hear it through several doors. But that's better than not speaking to the Hungarian prime minister at all.”

Europe's Trump

La Libre Belgique comments on the Hungarian prime minister's public appearance:

“One look at the video published on X on Monday is enough to gauge the image Orbán wants to project: wearing sunglasses and with his hair blowing in the wind, he shows himself boarding a military plane to the sound of rock music. ... 'It's time to make Europe great again', he quips, quoting the slogan of the Hungarian presidency, based on Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again'. So let's not kid ourselves: Viktor Orbán is taking inspiration from a man who intends to drop Kyiv and the whole of Europe if he becomes president of the United States again. The ruler of Budapest wants the Republican to make a comeback.”

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