Donald Trump welcomes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of his few admirers claimed in Europe, on Monday during a visit that provokes sharp criticism in Washington as the national-conservative leader is accused of undermining democracy in his country.
Donald Trump, an “icon” for Orban
This tete-a-tete with the President of the United States, which multiplies the pikes against the European Union, will offer a platform of choice to Viktor Orban, known for its eurosceptic positions, less than two weeks of European elections during of which the sovereignist and populist camp should make a push.
“Building on the old ties between the United States and Hungary, the President and the Prime Minister will discuss ways to strengthen cooperation” between the two countries, said last week the spokeswoman of the White House Sarah Sanders.
The announcement came on the day when US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo canceled a trip to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the last minute.
An irony of the calendar that many observers have seen as emblematic of the evolution of transatlantic relations since the election of the Republican billionaire, accused of preferring strong men, or even autocrats, leaders of Western allied democratic democracies in Washington.
In September, the Hungarian prime minister, who has been in power since 2010, called Donald Trump an “icon” for the sovereignist movement, after the anti-“globalist” speech of the latter before the UN General Assembly.
Call to cancel the visit
This ideological closeness allowed a warming of relations whereas Viktor Orban had been regularly reproached by the previous democratic administration of Barack Obama of the attacks on the freedom of the press, justice and the civil society.
Several voices have been raised in Washington to denounce the visit of the head of the Hungarian government.
It “has no place in the Oval Office,” said Rob Berschinski of Human Rights First and Hal Brands of Johns Hopkins University.
“Not only because it will be seen as the dubbing of a leader who has successfully dismantled a democracy, but also because it confirms an absolutely threatening strategy for transatlantic security,” they added in a column published by the Washington daily Post.
In particular, the growing proximity of NATO member Hungary to Russia.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also warned Budapest of its ties with Moscow during a visit to the Hungarian capital in February.
Several Democratic deputies have even called in a letter President Trump to give up welcoming Viktor Orban until he has “put his country on the path of democracy and human rights.”
Without going that far, a group of influential Democratic senators but also Republicans urged the host of the White House, in another letter, to raise in his talks with the Hungarian leader “erosion” of democracy in his country.
Asked if freedom of the press and human rights would be on the agenda of this tete-a-tete, a senior US official evaded: “The purpose of this meeting is simply to strengthen the strategic relationship between Allied countries “,” not necessarily discuss every topic of bilateral relations, “he told reporters, assuring that these issues had already been discussed with Budapest.