US & Canada

Trump praises 'respected' Hungary PM Orbán

US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during a meeting in the White House Image copyright AFP

Donald Trump has praised Viktor Orbán during the Hungarian prime minister's visit to the White House.

At a press conference, the US president said Mr Orbán was "respected all over Europe" and had "kept [Hungary] safe".

The conservative Hungarian premier is a controversial figure over his stances on immigration, press freedom and Russia.

Critics of the visit, including some Republicans, argue that Mr Orbán has eroded democracy in Hungary.

Why is Orbán visiting?

US officials say the two leaders had a private meeting aimed at strengthening American "re-engagement" in central Europe, and to negotiate trade deals in arms and energy.

Orbán's spokesman, Zoltán Kovács, said in a statement that both countries have "much that keeps us close", including "Nato, security co-operation, energy security, migration, pro-family policies, and the protection of our Judeo-Christian heritage".

Why is the visit controversial?

Mr Orbán is a divisive figure in European politics and has been criticised for moves to consolidate power and curb the power of the judiciary and media.

Like Mr Trump, he is tough on immigration.

Critics also worry about his desire to strengthen Hungary's ties with Russia.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Orbán (right) has been criticised by Democrats and some Republicans

He has been shunned by US presidents in the past. He first visited in 2001 during his initial term as prime minister, but was refused a meeting with President Bush.

In a joint letter, several Democrat lawmakers condemned the visit, saying Mr Orbán "represents so many things that are antithetical to core American values".

What did Trump and Orbán say?

Speaking to reporters, Mr Trump said: "I know he's a tough man, but he's a respected man, and he's done the right thing, according to many people, on immigration."

Mr Orbán, in response, said Hungary was "proud to stand together" with the US "on fighting illegal migration, on terrorism and protecting Christian communities all around the world".

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