Victor Orbán, who stated that Europe has "shot itself in foot" by imposing sanctions on Russia, told diplomats on Monday (25 August) that he would seek support from other EU countries to improve relations with Moscow.
Speaking to the annual gathering of Hungary's ambassadors, the Hungarian prime minister again warned against further alienating Moscow, which the EU has put under sanctions for its role in Ukraine.
"The EU gets further from Russia every day ... (This) is bad, not for Hungary, but the entire European Union," he said in a speech outlining his newly-formed third government's foreign policy priorities.
"We must seek the company of EU countries interested in the slowing or halting of this unfavourable separation process," he said, adding that because central and eastern European countries had no consensus on the issue, they could not act together.
Orbán, whose conservative Fidesz party in April won a new four-year term, has been accused by some parts of the EU of seeking to amass too much power and rejecting democratic checks and balances.
The Hungarian prime minister added that Poland and the Baltic states considered the Russian issue foremost a security matter, a view not shared by Hungary. Orbán said his country looks upon Moscow as a business partner, and considers other aspects of the situation as secondary.
"Values are important, as NATO and the EU both rest on shared values, but that does not mean we should relate to countries outside our alliances based on their political culture, institutions, democracy, or any other views," he said.
Addressing another issue that might put him at odds with Brussels, the prime minister promised a hard line on immigration.
"We must fight to keep this issue under national jurisdiction," he said. "I make no secret of this: we will continue with a very tough policy that does not at all encourage immigration ... For Europe to have general rules that affect all of us who think differently is out of the question."
- 26 Aug.: Poroshenko to attend Customs Union summit in Minsk;
- 30 Aug.: EU leaders hold summit in Brussels;
- 30 Aug.: Poroshenko to meet with EU leaders in Brussels;
- 4-5 Sept.: Poroshenko to attend NATO summit in Cardiff.