Trump Victory May Be Best for EU, Maverick Hungarian Leader Says

  • Orban says Europe has lost its way in huge migrant influx
  • Hungarian leader has built a border fence to keep migrants out

Viktor Orban

Photographer: Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Donald Trump presidency in the U.S. may be the best outcome for Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suggested, going further than any leader in the European Union to back the Republican nominee.

Orban, a maverick leader who has built a barrier on Hungary’s borders to keep migrants out, hailed Trump’s ideas to fight terrorism. Europe was “living in fear” after attacks in Nice, France, and in Munich, and had lost its way trying to cope with its biggest migrant wave since World War II, Orban told an ethnic Hungarian audience in Baile Tusnad, Romania on Saturday.

“I’m not a member of Donald Trump’s campaign,” said Orban, who has clashed with Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, over the state of democracy in the eastern European nation. “I’d never have thought that it would occur to me the idea that he would be the best choice for Europe and for Hungary.”

Ironically, Orban spoke after Trump roiled Europeans this week by saying that he may not defend from Russian military aggression those NATO members that don’t spend the required 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. One of the countries not making the required spending is Hungary, an EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member that was a satellite of the Soviet Union for more than four decades until the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Orban didn’t address the issue on Saturday.


Plain-Spoken

Like Trump, Orban, a three-term premier going for his fourth general election victory in 2018, has relished his role as a plain-spoken leader with a penchant for subverting the status quo and emphasizing the rights of the majorities over minorities. His tenure since 2010 has been marked by steps to weaken checks and balances on his power, including by cutting the top court’s mandate, turning state media into government propaganda machines and appointing allies to head independent institutions including the central bank.

In 2014 Orban summed it up by saying that he had built an “illiberal state,” modeled on authoritarian regimes including Russia and Turkey, where non-governmental organizations that received outside funding would be monitored as foreign agents. His government has been particularly scathing of George Soros, the billionaire Hungarian-born financier and Democratic Party supporter, who has supported NGOs and democracies throughout the formerly communist region for decades.

Trump, Orban

Trump’s and Orban’s policies appear to coalesce over immigration. Orban said his clear position has been that the migrant wave that hit the continent last year was “killing Europe” and that there was an undeniable link between immigration and terrorism. He said those who try to enter illegally should be locked up and deported.

Orban was among the first leaders to call for fortifying the EU’s external borders, and he built a fence on Hungary’s southern border to repel migrants. Trump, meanwhile, has called for a wall to be built on the U.S. border with Mexico and a ban on Muslim immigration.

Orban floating his support for Trump may not be surprising for those who’ve followed his career, particularly the bad blood between the Hungarian leader and the Clintons over the years.

Clinton Criticism

Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, back in 2012 said that the U.S. had “significant and well-founded” concerns over the state of democracy under Orban. In May of this year, during a campaign stop for his wife, Bill Clinton said Hungary and Poland, which has mimicked Orban’s policies in the past year, had decided that “democracy was too much trouble” and had adopted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “authoritarian dictatorship” style of leadership, a charge vehemently rejected by the governments in Budapest and Warsaw.

With EU leaders gathering in Slovakia in September to discuss the bloc’s future following Britain’s decision to leave the bloc and with Trump now the Republican nominee, Orban suggested that policies once considered unthinkable and discredited may become the new normal.

“No one can exclude the possibility that the European mainstream will flow in the coming years in places where Europe has tried to banish Hungary,” Orban said. “That’s how the black sheep can become the mainstream.”

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