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Orban only EU leader due at Belt and Road Forum

| 2023-10-12 < 1 min read

Orban only EU leader due at Belt and Road Forum

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will be the only EU premier present at China’s third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Wednesday, 18 October, according to local media reports.

Orban will also give a speech at the event, his press officer Bertalan Havasi told Hungarian website Telex. “Before that, on Monday and Tuesday, he is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Chinese leaders, first with the prime minister and then with the head of state,” Havasi added.

Balkan rail project on agenda

This will be the first Belt and Road Forum since 2019. China launched its Belt and Road foreign investment programme as the New Silk Road, in 2013 to invest in infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Balkans. These are financed by Chinese state bank loans and generally carried out by Chinese contractors.

Orban is expected to discuss with Chinese officials the faltering Budapest-Belgrade railway project, which has reportedly stopped, amid its Chinese contractors’ failure to meet EU safety standards. However Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the project will continue as planned, when he spoke to Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto last week.

Orban criticised for possible Putin meet

Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be present at the Belt and Road Forum, but Orban’s press office has neither confirmed nor denied whether Orban will hold a meeting with him while in China.

On Thursday 12 October, Orban critic MEP Guy Verhofstadt criticised Orban’s decision in an online post: “While Parliament and Council discuss geopolitical threats to Europe… Orban’s off to China to meet with Putin! When does populism become treason? When will the European Commission finally follow up Article 7 and ban Orban from EU decision-making?!” he added.