Hungary’s Orban Says Trump Invited Him to U.S. to Reset Ties

  • Orban was first leader in Europe to publicly back Trump
  • Hungary has clashed with U.S., EU over erosion of democracy

Viktor Orban

Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

Hungary’s prime minister said he’ll no longer be considered a “black sheep” in the eyes of the U.S. after speaking with Donald Trump, who has invited him to visit Washington.

In a phone conversation, the U.S. president-elect “made it clear he thinks highly of Hungary,” Viktor Orban said in an interview published in the Vilaggazdasag business daily on Friday. President Barack Obama shunned Orban during his two terms, having never held a bilateral meeting with the NATO ally leader and criticizing him for eroding democracy.

Trump “invited me to Washington, and I replied that it’s been a while since I’ve been there, since they treated me like ‘black sheep,”’ Orban said in the interview. “He laughed and he said they treated him the same way.”

In July, Orban became the first leader in Europe to publicly back Trump’s presidential bid, arguing that under his leadership, the U.S. wouldn’t try to export democracy. The 53-year-old, three-term premier has clashed with the Obama administration and the European Union, who have censured him for pursuing what he’s described as an “illiberal state” modeled on authoritarian regimes including Russia and Turkey.

Calling Leaders

Trump spoke to Orban in a round of courtesy calls to leaders who “offered their congratulations,” according to e-mailed statement on Friday from Trump’s transition office in New York. Trump also spoke to the prime ministers of Greece and Sweden and the presidents of Panama and Slovenia over the past several days, it said.

Since returning to office in 2010, Orban’s tenure has been marked by steps to weaken the checks and balances on his power by curbing the top court’s mandate and using state media and appointing allies to independent institutions, including the central bank, to support his government’s aims. Like Trump, he emphasizes the rights of the majority over minorities and has been the EU’s most anti-immigrant leader, fencing off Hungary’s southern border during the largest influx of refugees to arrive to Europe since World War II.

As part of the dispute between the U.S. and Orban’s administration, the former president of Hungary’s tax office quit last year after American authorities put her and five other Hungarians on a visa blacklist of officials suspected of corruption. She has denied wrongdoing. With Trump’s election, “ideological barriers” that hampered U.S.-Hungarian relations will probably be removed, Orban said.

“With Donald Trump, the U.S. will get a president who won’t be ideologically bound,” the Hungarian leader told Vilaggazdasag. “He’s open-minded and motivated much more by success, efficiency and results than by political theories. That’s favorable for us, because the evidence is on our side.”

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