Why Trump's meeting Hungary's Orban is a 'bit controversial'

Cheryl Sanders
May 15, 2019

President Donald Trump praised Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the Oval Office on Monday, disregarding bipartisan objections from Congress that the nationalist leader has taken steps to limit freedoms in his central European nation.

US President Donald Trump on Monday praised Hungary's hardline authoritarian Viktor Orban as a leader respected throughout Europe who kept his country safe with his crackdown on immigration.

But Trump also insisted erroneously that he "never did use, as you probably know", such information, adding: "That's what the Mueller report was all about. And he's done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration".

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hungarian human rights lawyer Marta Pardavi is anxious about where her country is heading. She's watched Viktor Orban's government demonize groups like hers - the Hungarian Helsinki Committee - which provides legal services for asylums-seekers and for Hungarians. "This is the basis for the Hungarian government", he said, adding, when pressed about the issue: "We have a new constitution accepted in 2011 and it's functioning well".

KELEMEN: Speaking via Skype, Pardavi says the Orban government has been passing laws that have no place in a democracy.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hungary's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto signed a bilateral defense cooperation agreement on the sidelines of events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. They also discussed how best to increase vigilance against unchecked global migration and to address China's unfair trade and investment practices. With the exception of Bulgaria, Trump has already received or visited all other eastern European EU member heads of state or government.

For his part, Orban reminded reporters "that so many Hungarians contributed to the tremendous progress of the United States".

Ahead of Trump hosting Orban, multiple reports noted how Orban was previously snubbed for White House visits by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

"Everyone from the Egyptian president to the Russian president to Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines to [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in Turkey".

Orban has overseen the re-writing of Hungary's constitution to strengthen his control over parliament and an extensive re-design of the country's electoral map to favour his conservative Fidesz party.

"It was a country that made its way into the European Union, that created democratic institutions, that housed a robust press", Foer said in an interview with NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Then again, Orban got to hear a cascade of praise from the USA president.

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