Donald Trump meets Hungary's Viktor Orban at the White House

President Donald Trump has praised Hungary's action on curbing migration, saying Prime Minister Viktor Orban had "kept Hungary safe." Orban said he was proud to fight illegal migration and terrorism alongside the US.

US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met at the White House in Washington on Monday with plans to discuss trade and energy issues, as well as weapons sales.

Politics | 29.12.2018

Speaking to media at the White House, Trump said the US "relationship is very good with Hungary."

"I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man," Trump said, adding that people should look at some of the "tremendous" problems Europe is facing because "they've done things differently" to Hungary.

Read more: Is Viktor Orban the EU's hard-line hero or villain?

Politics | 08.05.2019

Eye-to-eye on migration

Trump praised Hungary's action on curbing migration, saying Orban had "kept Hungary safe."

Orban said Hungary was proud to join the US in "fighting against illegal migration," as well as on terrorism and protecting Christian communities.

Like Trump, right-wing Orban has taken a hard line against migration. Orban has said he hopes he and Trump can coordinate that stance into a global alliance.

Read more: Which way is Europe heading?

Hungary's foreign minister told state radio on Sunday that an anti-migration alliance was being formed and noted that Hungary and the US were among a handful of countries that last year opposed a United Nations migration pact.

The timing of the meeting, less than two weeks ahead of European elections in which Orban and his Fidesz party are becoming a thorny issue, raised some eyebrows in Europe.

The meeting could also be seen as an attempt to discourage Hungary from strengthening ties with Russia and China.

Orban said he had not been in the US for 20 years. Former US President Barack Obama did not welcome Orban, and similarly his predecessor George W. Bush did not welcome a Hungarian prime minister.

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Muslim invaders'

"We don't see these people as Muslim refugees. We see them as Muslim invaders," Orban said in a recent interview with German daily Bild newspaper. The 54-year-old prime minister of Hungary added: "We believe that a large number of Muslims inevitably leads to parallel societies, because Christian and Muslim society will never unite." Multiculturalism, he said, "is only an illusion."

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'You wanted the migrants, we didn't'

When asked by Bild whether it was fair for Germany to accept hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants while Hungary accepted none, Orban responded: "The difference is, you wanted the migrants, and we didn't." Migration, he said, threatens the "sovereignty and cultural identity" of Hungary.

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Migration is poison'

It was not the first time the Hungarian leader has framed migration as a problem for his country. In 2016, he said that Hungary "does not need a single migrant for the economy to work, or the population to sustain itself, or for the country to have a future." He added: "for us migration is not a solution but a problem ... not medicine but a poison, we don’t need it and won’t swallow it.”

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Importing homophobia'

Orban has repeatedly criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her decision to allow over a million migrants into Germany in the summer of 2015. Orban told Bild in early 2016: "If you take masses of non-registered immigrants from the Middle East into your country, you are importing terrorism, crime, anti-Semitism, and homophobia."

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'All terrorists are basically migrants'

Orban has also repeatedly criticized the EU for trying to get member states to share refugees based on national quotas. In a 2015 interview with POLITICO, he suggested the bloc's leaders instead focus more on strengthening the EU's external border. In the same interview, he said: "Of course it’s not accepted, but the factual point is that all the terrorists are basically migrants."

Viktor Orban's most controversial migration comments

'Parallel societies'

Orban has found allies in other right-wing governments in eastern Europe such as Poland that also oppose the EU's refugee policies. In an interview with Spanish TV channel Intereconomia in 2015, Orban raised fears about integrating Muslim migrants in the EU when he said: "What sort of Europe do we want to have? Parallel societies? Muslim communities living together with the Christian community?"

Republicans, Democrats raise concern

Ahead of the meeting, senior Republican and Democratic members of the US Congress told Trump they were concerned about Hungary's "downward democratic trajectory."

"In recent years, democracy in Hungary has significantly eroded," Republican Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, the panel's top Democrat, said in a letter to Trump. "Under Orban, the election process has become less competitive and the judiciary is increasingly controlled by the state."

Several Democratic members of the House of Representatives, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, called on Trump to cancel his meeting with Orban, citing similar concerns as well as his anti-Semitic and xenophobic comments.

Once an ally of the American-Hungarian Jewish financier George Soros, who paid for his university education in the UK, Orban now regularly criticizes the US-based philanthropist.

law/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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