Home Public Diplomacy Orban’s Engagement With Belarus: Hungary’s Troubling Role
Public Diplomacy

Orban’s Engagement With Belarus: Hungary’s Troubling Role

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives at the Prague castle where the European Summit will take place in Prague, Czech Republic, on October 6, 2022. Leaders from over 40 countries are set to meet in Prague on October 6, 2022, to launch the "European Political Community". (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Hungary continues its race alone towards a diplomacy differentiated from that led by the EU. It is to Belarus that Orban stretches out his arms today.

When he came to power in 2010, Viktor Orban did not hesitate long to distance himself from fundamental European precepts to follow in the footsteps of his powerful Russian neighbor. Since then, the relationship between the two has been less clear. But today, the Hungarian leader has decided to take his diplomacy back in hand, even if it means departing from that led by the European Union.

Ties between Belarus and Hungary are less and less dissimilar. Not long ago, while all EU countries supported the report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe denouncing the “appalling human rights situation” under the Lukashenko regime, Orban preferred to close their eyes.

Since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Hungarian position has been questioned. But as Europe cracks down, Budapest seems to be moving backwards. Last February, the Hungarian Foreign Minister took a new step by going in person to Minsk. Through this initiative, he became the first senior official from a European country to lend himself to such a visit since 2020 and the authoritarian abuses of his leader against the opposition forces.

One-Man Diplomacy

If Hungary assures that this privileged relationship is necessary to end the ongoing conflict at the gates of Europe, few believe in this version. While trade relations are particularly weak between the two states, the real reason could arise from the privileged partner that Belarus is in the supply of Russian oil, which constitutes 80% of Hungary’s needs. Political relations even spill over into a more symbolic but meaningful cooperation. Orban is ready to welcome the Belarusian national football team so that it can compete for the qualification for Euro 2024. Yet another provocation which risks rearing up the positions even more.

This article is originally published on moustique.be


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