“There is a mutual intention on the part of the new Parisian leadership and the Hungarian Government to become acquainted with each other’s standpoints and to engage in dialogue”, Government Spokesperson Zoltán Kovács said in a statement to Hungarian news agency MTI from Paris following talks with the advisors of recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Government Spokesperson is on a one-day visit to the French capital to initiate official relations with the new administration formed following the presidential and parliamentary elections in spring, and with the press.

According to Mr. Kovács, the visit, which was organised two months ago, is made particularly timely by last week’s EU summit and by Friday’s meeting between the Visegrád Group (V4) and the French President.

“If there exists mutual respect, then there is a serious possibility of dialogue, which there is otherwise a demand for. All of the parties have expressed their intention in this respect (…) There is a mutual intention to become acquainted with each other’s standpoints, and this is something new in comparison to the slashing out, threats and blackmail of previous years”, Mr. Kovács said.

The Government Spokesperson pointed out that prior to the EU summit President Macron had made various “impolite” statements in an interview that was published in eight major European newspapers, to which a suitable reply was issued by the V4. He indicated that Hungary had assumed that “the basis for dialogue is mutual respect, and that we take note of the fact that we have differing opinions on various issues and that our institutions work in different ways, but that we respect these differences and search for opportunities for agreement and cooperation despite these differences”.

According to Mr. Kovács, it transpired at the meeting between the French President and the V4 in Brussels that when we are talking about concrete issues “there is not only a possibility of normal dialogue, but methods of dialogue can in fact be found, as can a suitable tone”.

Despite the differing standpoints and perspectives relating to one of the priority topics of the French party, the European Directive on the Posting of Workers, Mr. Kovács said it was obvious that the parties had much to talk about.

“What looks like social dumping from a French perspective is a brain drain from Central Europe’s point of view”, he pointed out.

However, all representatives of the Visegrád Group made it clear that they are open to cooperation and dialogue in the interests of reducing fraud and irregularities, but that the European Treaties must serve as a guide with relation to issues concerning fundamental freedoms, Mr. Kovács told the press.

The Government Spokesperson told his French negotiating partners that V4 cooperation provides a format that could provide a framework for future negotiations.

“This group of countries is working to be able to appear as an equal partner on all issues that affect the future of Europe, and so that their standpoint should appear with the same relevance as the opinion of any other Western European member state”, he stressed.

Following a meeting with a reporter from French daily Le Monde, Mr. Kovács said:  “From many perspectives the same stereotypes and negative images pop up and the same questions come forward that we have encountered on many occasions in recent years”. According to the Government Spokesperson, the Hungarian Government is being challenges with regard to issues that are “in part symbolic, and in part bogus topics”, such as the freedom of the press and the justice system, despite the fact that these issues were closed and satisfactorily handled by the European Union’s relative bodies a long time ago. “Nevertheless, these issues continue to be returning topics in the French press and to an extent in French politics”, he pointed out.

Mr. Kovács said that during the discussion of such topics he would like everyone to insist on the topics that are included in the European treaties and basic documents, and with relation to which legally binding decisions and the undertaking of commitments have actually been made, rather than quoting “never defined European values”. According to the Government Spokesperson, it is only within such a framework that there is any point discussing issues such as solidarity, adherence to regulations, cooperation or the future of Europe. Topics that go beyond this framework may be classified in the category of simple political opinion, according to the Government Spokesperson’s standpoint.

“People are finding it difficult to accept this kind of approach, because we continue to receive attacks and criticism that is attempting to find a hold on the Hungarian Government according to some never-defined concept”, he said. According to Mr. Kovács, a solution that would bring about a positive turn of events would be for the French press to talk about the essence and legally graspable elements of Hungarian measures “and then it would be easier for the Hungarian Government to face any kind of criticism in view of the fact that the measures introduced in recent years have stood up to all tests and we are acting in accordance with European law during the course of disputes”, he added.

(Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister/MTI)