Published: Thu, May 16, 2019

Trump to Host Hungary's Orban at White House

Trump to Host Hungary's Orban at White House

"Hungarian Human Rights Lawyer Marta Pardavi is anxious about where her country is heading".

In 2015, when Europe struggled with an influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, he likened migrants to rapists and terrorists, echoing Trump's harsh rhetoric about migrants on the southern US border.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, has warned Hungary that "an authoritarian Russian Federation will never be a friend to the freedom and sovereignty of smaller nations".

Orban made no secret of his wish to visit the White House after being snubbed by President Barack Obama, who never even granted him a phone call. But in a letter to Trump last week, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they want Orban to address his country's "downward democratic trajectory and the implications for US interests in Central Europe".

The migration issue, along with Orbn's moves to consolidate control of the country's judiciary and threaten the independence of the media, has caused deep rifts with the European Union.

In a letter, several Democratic lawmakers also called on Trump to postpone the meeting until Orban "returns his country to the path of democracy and respect for human rights".

SHAPIRO: Part of Orban's project has been to change public sentiment within Hungary, a country where people used to be very open to liberal, Western democratic ideas.

Amnesty International has condemned Hungary for its "systematic crackdown on the rights of refugees and migrants" in recent years.

"People have a lot of respect for this prime minister", Trump said as the two men sat side-by-side in the White House.

But some analysts say the Hungarian leader has found a kindred spirit in President Trump, a fellow nationalist.

Trump announced during his meeting with Orbn that he would use next month's Group of 20 summit in Japan for meetings with both Putin and Xi.

When a reporter asked Trump about "democratic backsliding" in Hungary, where Orban has imposed restrictions on the press and on universities, Trump praised Orban as "tough".

In the Senate, senior Republicans and Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee urged Trump in a letter to express concern to Orban about Hungary's "downward democratic trajectory".

A billboard from a campaign of the Hungarian government showing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Hungarian-American financier George Soros with the caption "You, too, have a right to know what Brussels is preparing to do".

"When we see that culture endangered, a red light flashes in our mind and we take immediate action", he said.

"Under such conditions, the United States should be isolating the Hungarian prime minister, not embracing him", he wrote on Monday. He last visited the White House for one-on-one meetings in 2001, during his first stint as prime minister, but was refused an Oval Office meeting with Bush.

No other European Union head of government has courted US President Donald Trump like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Second thing is, I think this will help populists across Europe, because they will look at Orban and they will say, hey, this guy has momentum.

In this April 7, 2018 photo, a man walks by an anti-migration billboard from the Hungarian government, on a street in Budapest.

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