Top EU Official Calls for Measured Response to Hungary’s Ukraine Peace Mission

European Council President Charles Michel says the reaction to Viktor Orban’s Ukraine “peace mission” to Russia should be measured

European Council President Charles Michel has cautioned EU member states against taking formal action against Hungary after its Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Moscow shortly after his country assumed the rotating presidency of the council.

Michel told the Financial Times that Orban’s “peace mission” had been “a problem” and described his actions as “not acceptable.” However, he suggested that punishing Hungary for the move could be counterproductive.

“We don’t want to harm ourselves in the process of trying to punish someone,” Michel explained. “Let’s be smart.”

EU officials and several member states have criticized Orban over his visit, which he described as part of a “peace mission” to encourage dialogue between Kiev and Moscow. The prime minister has stated that he was not representing the EU in his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky. He claimed that the meetings did not constitute talks, as his sole objective was to hear from the two leaders.

According to the FT, the EU’s legal service has determined that Orban nonetheless violated the bloc’s treaties. His actions “could jeopardize the attainment of the union’s objectives” and were not done “in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity,” it found.

Several EU nations are reportedly considering whether to boycott informal events that Hungary will host during its six-month presidency, or even to remove Budapest from the role altogether.

While criticism of Orban within the EU is widespread, it is not unanimous. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico last week expressed “admiration” for his Hungarian counterpart’s courage.

”There are never enough peace talks and initiatives. If my health permitted, I would have gladly joined him,” added Fico, who is still recovering from injuries sustained during an attempted assassination in May.

Orban has dismissed the criticism, particularly from EU officials, arguing that bureaucratic procedures are one reason why the Ukraine conflict is ongoing, as the bloc follows Washington’s lead on the matter.

”Europe is increasingly being drawn into a war, in which it has nothing to gain and everything to lose,” he wrote in an opinion piece in the Hungarian press, explaining his intentions.