Viktor Orban says he is fighting for ‘common sense’ at EU summit
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his decision to “roll out the red carpet” for Viktor Orban on his visit to Downing Street on Friday. The visit has been heavily criticised by human rights groups, as well as Jewish and Muslim MPs, who questioned whether he was an appropriate guest to the Prime Minister’s residence given his track record on the treatment of minority groups. Mr Orban is the leader of the far-right Fidesz party, which has managed to centralise power in Hungary around himself and his allies while cracking down heavily on civil society and monopolising the country’s media.
Mr Orban’s government has also been accused of running anti-semitic and Islamophobic campaigns, most infamously against Jewish philanthropist George Soros.
The Hungarian leader has decried “Muslim invaders” while describing migrants as “poison” and declaring he wants to see an end to liberal democracy.
Mr Orban said his party had “replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st century Christian democracy” in Hungary back in 2018.
Speaking out about the upcoming visit, Labour MP Alex Sobel said: “Viktor Orban is a renowned antisemite, fuelled violence against the Romany, clamps down on the LGBT and Muslim communities.
“He suppresses basic democratic norms and press freedom, however, Boris Johnson is rolling out the red carpet, and MPs of all parties should be calling this out.”
Naz Shah, Labour’s shadow minister for community cohesion described the upcoming event as “extremely worrying”.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “Tomorrow Johnson welcomes Viktor Orban to Downing Street, a leader who has attacked press freedom and democracy, called refugees ‘Muslim invaders’ and is a cheerleader for Putin and Lukashenko.
“When Boris Johnson meets with his Hungarian counterpart, we expect him to challenge the repeated attempts to undermine democratic values.
“Anything less than a robust rejection of these acts is tantamount to rolling out the red carpet.”
Ms Nandy said the Hungarian Prime Minister, who she described as one of Europe’s “most regressive” leaders, undermined “the values the UK Government says it wants to defend”.
Questioning the Prime Minister’s authority in this case, Ms Nandy added: “What are the chances he will be challenged on any of this?”
However, Downing Street has defended the visit, saying it’s essential for the UK’s future outside of the European Union.
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Why is Viktor Orban coming to London?
As is understood, Mr Orban’s visit comes as the UK strives to establish trade deals with nations around the world now that Britain has left the EU.
Asked about the visit on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said relations with Hungary were “vital” to the country’s progression.
The spokesperson told journalists: “As president of the Visegrad group of Central European nations later this year, cooperation with Hungary is vital to the UK’s prosperity and security.
“It will be a moment to promote UK interests in the area and discuss wider issues.”
The spokesperson declined to confirm or deny whether Mr Johnson would raise human rights issues with his guest.
But asked about Mr Johnson’s views on some of the comments Mr Orban has made, the spokesperson said: “On all human rights issues we do not shy away from raising them.
“The Prime Minister has condemned those specific comments, which were divisive and wrong.”
Last year Mr Orban hailed Mr Johnson as “one of the bravest European politicians” after UK Conservative members were slammed for being almost alone in refusing to censure Hungary over its breaches of the law.
Mr Orban’s visit could put immense strain on the already difficult relationship between the UK and European member states, within which he has been accused of eroding democracy, the rule of law and press freedoms.
The Hungarian leader is a Euro-sceptic, having often praised Mr Johnson for delivering Brexit, and has twice blocked the EU from issuing statements condemning China for actions in Hong Kong.
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