From the last two years, it seems Orban is navigating closer and closer to Russia, and Hungary's relations with the EU are strained, to say the least.

It seems there is a disagreement in many areas, especially if Russia is involved:

Orban, speaking in Brussels on the sidelines of an EU summit, said there was a "big battle" especially over support for Ukraine. Orban said he saw no reason for Hungary to send its taxpayers' money to support Ukraine.

and recently Orban was criticized for his handshake with Putin:

Luxembourg’s outgoing Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Friday slammed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over his handshake with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

What's the reason that Orban is moving closer and closer to Russia and damaging, perhaps irreparably, Hungary's place in the EU? Is the only reason acquiring raw materials?


4 Answers 4


A number of factors are coming together. No single one could explain this.

  • There are Eurosceptic voters and parties in Hungary, just as they exist elsewhere in the EU. It is a bit academic to ask if the populist movement exists because of Fidesz or if Fidesz made itself the voice of this movement. As an Eurosceptic, other anti-EU leaders are his natural allies.
  • Orban is conservative on some cultural issues, ill at ease on the policies of western EU members e.g. regarding LGBT rights, abortion, or asylum rights.
  • Orban has been accused by the EU of corruption, and he has been using the Hungarian veto on those EU decisions which require unanimity as a weapon in this fight. That means using the veto to gain something has become a habit.
  • Hungary and Ukraine have some outstanding differences on minority issues.

The interplay between different bullet points also explains the somewhat erratic policy regarding Russia -- at times more aligned with the rest of the EU, at times against it.


Hungary supports a large number of EU policies. This includes the common agriculture policy, economic, scientific and educational collaboration, etc. Orban is one of the strongest proponents of the idea of a European army.

Hungary also does not support a number of specific EU policies. Orban claims that the de facto coalition of the EPP-S&D-Renew-Greens in the European Parliament is basically a "liberal coalition", who just condemn him because he is a "real conservative" (as opposed to the other parties in the EPP collaborating with liberals). The most recent important issues are well summarized in the answer of o.m. One addendum is that Hungary is actually supporting Ukraine with a large amount of money and humanitarian aids (but not with weapons), and hosts a large number of Ukrainian refugees. Its position on the Russian-Ukrainian war is similar as that of Austria.

  • 3
    "Orban is one of the strongest proponents of the idea of a European army." Well, that piece is from 2016. I'm not sure how he feels about trumpeting that now. Oct 29, 2023 at 19:01
  • "Hungary is actually supporting Ukraine with a large amount of money and humanitarian aids". How much precisely? Are you including what goes through the EU budget? Oct 29, 2023 at 19:03
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    "Hungary, Slovakia criticise more aid to Ukraine as EU fights over budget" euractiv.com/section/global-europe/news/… Oct 29, 2023 at 19:09
  • @Fizz He repeated it in 2022: tichyseinblick.de/interviews/… Oct 29, 2023 at 19:13
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    And with respect to defense, he makes it clear (in that piece) he wants to exclude Americans from the defense of Europe. In some regards that is "pro European" in the sense of de Gaulle. But that's also what Russia wants, so... Oct 29, 2023 at 19:25

In a nutshell they see the EU as weaksauce version of the USSR:

“We had to dance to the tune that Moscow whistled, Brussels whistles too, but we dance as we want to, and if we don’t want to, then we don’t dance,” Orbán added.


“We were here when the first conquering empire attacked us, and we’ll be here when the last one collapses,” Orbán said on Sunday. “We will bear it when we must, and we will push back when we can. We draw swords when there is a chance, and we resist when long years of oppression come.”

Conveniently, they don't Hexit but "dirty remain", because this "weaksauce EUSSR" provides

  • probably more money than Putin's Eurasian Union would

  • a convenient target for directing the nationalist, xenophobic sentiment, which helps in fact keep Orbán in power fighting some "eternal 1956" against Brussels.

The talk about a European army etc. needs to be put in perspective that it's a really an explicit "USA exit Europe defense" argument, so at best a Gaullist vision. It also happens to align with Russia's vision of Europe.


To say where it is standing, it looks like Hungary is on the verge of losing voting rights in the EU, mostly for the blocking the 50 billion euro aid for Ukraine (source). Chapter Seven in the EU agreement allows an EU member to be denied voting rights. Any other EU country can veto this denial, but after the recent elections in Poland Hungary does not have any supporter that for sure would vote against.

Hence more or less direct confrontation.

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