US President Donald Trump and Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán met on Monday in the White House and discussed a range of issues including trade, energy and security. Experts say that though there are still many dividing issues regarding the two countries, Orbán can exploit the meeting in its domestic policy since instead of any critical remarks, he only received compliments from Trump.
Compliments and courting
Though direkt36, an investigative Hungarian news outlet wrote before the summit that the two leaders were going to announce high-value arms deals worth billion dollars (aircraft, missile system) as well as joint energy projects, nothing like that happened. During their yesterday joint appearance at the White House, Donald Trump complimented the Hungarian PM for what he has done regarding fighting illegal immigration and terrorism and helping Christian communities. Trump added that PM Orbán is probably like him, “a little bit controversial, but that’s OK …
you’ve done a good job, and you’ve kept your country safe“.
Furthermore, Trump praised Hungary’s commitment towards NATO and highlighted that Orbán is supported in Hungary and Europe. Moreover, he defended Orbán for undermining democratic institutions in Hungary and said that the Hungarian PM has issues with Brussels only because in the times of the migrant crisis he had done else than the rest of the EU.
Strategic director of the Republikon Institute, Csaba Tóth, said to HVG that it was the 15-minute-long meeting in itself that bore importance, and not things that were said. Managing director Péter Krekó of the Political Capital said that for Orbán it will be
easy to sell the summit as a domestic political success.
Krekó added that the meeting in itself signs a change in the US foreign policy since it was in 2001 for the last time the acting American president welcomed PM Viktor Orbán in Washington. Despite ideological similarities which the two leaders gladly talked about yesterday, there were no actual announcements and according to Csaba Tóth, for Trump Orbán is not a particularly important leader, just the least one among the leaders of the Visegrad Group.
Though Trump or Orbán announced no arms deals or energy agreements, Krekó believes that the main reason behind the summit was in connection with military and economic issues.
Regular meetings with Trump in the future?
Many were surprised that the Hungarian PM did not receive any critical remarks regarding his too close relationship with Moscow and Beijing; instead, Trump complimented him because of Hungary’s commitment towards NATO. However, experts agree that hot topics between Washington and Budapest like calling the headquarters of the Russian International Investment Bank to Budapest, cooperation with Chinese Huawei, or the conflict between Ukraine and Hungary remained on the table. Krekó said that in this regard worries expressed by both Republican and Democrat congressmen/congresswomen in letters before the meeting still exist.
According to the leader of the government-close Nézőpont Group, Sámuel Ágoston Mráz, the summit was
useful for Trump and successful for Orbán.
He sees a chance that in the future PM Orbán will not only have annual meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin but also with US President Donald Trump.
According to some sources of HVG working in diplomacy, meaningful negotiations happen, and agreements are reached in the background during such occasions so it may be that
details of some significant deals will be settled a couple of days later.
However, even though nothing concrete was announced, it does not mean that Washington does not monitor everything, including the rule of law in Hungary – said Péter Krekó.
Opposition politicians were also welcomed in Washington
According to a high-ranking official of the American government, they discussed such issues, as well. But the goal of the Monday meeting was not to agree on all questions regarding the relationship of the two countries but to strengthen ties between two NATO-allies – he added.
Mr Mráz stressed that White House summits with V4 leaders sign that Central-Europe is becoming important again for Washington because they want to baulk the Chinese and the Russians in the region.
Interestingly, just a couple of hours before the Trump-Orbán summit, opposition politicians Hódmezővásárhely mayor Péter Márky-Zay and former independent MP Zoltán Kész, both members of the
Everybody’s Hungary Movement, were welcomed by the State Department
– 444.hu reported. In fact, the movement’s main goal is to set up negotiations between opposition political parties resulting in just one opposition candidate in each electoral district of Hungary for the local elections this fall. According to Mr Márky-Zay and Mr Kész, they met foreign experts who they discussed the Hungarian-Russian and the NATO-Hungary relationship, the state of the Hungarian opposition and media and the issue of Ghaith Pharaon with. In the following days, they will have further meetings with experts of the State Department.
According to them, they met with Árpád Habony, a pro-government media mogul, on the streets of Washington but they did not manage to talk with him.
Source: direkt36.hu, hvg.hu, 444.hu