Boris Johnson is not much of an advocate among EU leaders. However, one of the admirers of the British Prime Minister is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. So it was clear that it was Orbán of all people, who received an invitation to Downing Street 16 months after Brexit. The Johnson & Orbons meeting in London on Friday raised concerns not only in the European Union but also in Great Britain.
In the European Union, Orbán is seen as a cross-driver as he is undermining the rule of law in his country, bowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin and torpedoing a common foreign policy line toward China Has been doing. Recently, Hungary blocked the EU declaration on escalation in the Middle East conflict.
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In Brussels, the meeting of Johnson and Orbans raised suspicion that Johnson was still trying to weaken the European Union. The British Prime Minister is with the community of 27 EU countries on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which actually provides customs control between Great Britain and Northern Ireland after Brexit. Johnson, however, refused to fully implement the protocol.
At the London government headquarters, Orbán’s invitation was justified by the fact that cooperation with Hungary was “vital to the prosperity and security of the United Kingdom”. Economy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted that it was “entirely appropriate” to arrange a meeting between Johnson and Orban.
A head of government like Johnson should “talk to all potential leaders in the world, even if we do not share their values,” Quarteng said. “In this post-Brexit world, it is perfectly fine that we build bilateral relations with individual countries.”
Furthermore, the significance of the visit to Johnson’s official residence was justified by the fact that Hungary would soon assume the chairmanship of the group of so-called Visegrad countries. The Visegrad Group also includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.
No press conference at the end
However, the British Prime Minister was clearly not entirely comfortable watching the meeting. Because there was no joint press conference later. It may also have something to do with the fact that Orbán’s anti-Muslim comments in the past have faced bipartisan opposition in Britain. In 2018, Orbán justified his stance on refugee policy, stating that “Muslim invaders” were to be kept away from Hungary.
On Thursday it told the British Prime Minister’s Office that Orbán’s statements were “divisive and inaccurate”. Earlier Labor Party MP Lisa Nandy also demanded that Johnson should speak at the meeting on anti-Semitic remarks and speak to the Orbans.
In addition, Orbán’s China-friendly stance does not match Johnson’s assertion that, as the host of the upcoming G-7 summit in Cornwall, Western industrialized countries should chart a common course towards Beijing. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently called for Washington and London to join forces on China policy.