Trump Should Confront, not Accommodate, During Orban White House Visit

Washington, D.C—In advance of Monday’s White House meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, Human Rights First calls on the Trump Administration to raise the Hungarian government’s efforts to undermine the rule of law and weaken its strategic partnership with the United States. The visit comes as Orban seeks closer ties with Russia.

“Rolling out the red carpet for one of Europe’s most notorious strongmen not only signals to Orban that honoring democratic principles doesn’t matter to this administration, it announces to the world’s dictators that the White House is open for business,” said Human Rights First’s Melissa Hooper. “Lauding Orban’s leadership won’t bring Hungary back into the fold, in fact it seems to be driving the country further towards the Kremlin. If the president doesn’t hold Orban accountable for his systematic assault on the rule of law and his support of Putin, it will be a major misstep in American foreign policy.”

Hungary, a member of the European Union and a NATO ally, is slipping precipitously from a democratic success story toward autocratic rule. It is severely curtailing judicial independence, consolidating most media into the hands of government-connected oligarchs, limiting academic freedom by kicking out a major American university, and raiding and harassing NGOs. At the same time, Hungary is drawing closer to Russia. Orban’s party, Fidesz, blocked Ukraine from negotiating with NATO, refused to extradite two Russian arms dealers to the United States—instead handed them over to Russia—and is pursuing a costly addition to a nuclear power plant in partnership with Russia, despite serious concerns by independent analysts.

Antisemitism is also surging within Fidesz. The party regularly employs antisemtic imagery to target Hungarian billionaire George Soros—whom it accuses of plotting to send migrants to harm the country—by blanketing cities with billboards containing racist tropes. Recently, Orban gave control of a new Holocaust museum to a Holocaust distorter, and it appears the museum itself will attempt to rewrite history involving Hungarian complicity during the Holocaust.

“Prime Minister Orban is not the reliable ally the United States needs in Europe, added Hooper. “Any deals the president makes with him won’t cancel out the fact that Hungary is risking its own security—and ours—and outright rejecting our basic values of free media, rule of law, and human rights.”

Human Rights First urges the United States to reexamine its policy toward Hungary and calls on the administration to be more vocal, critical, and active in imposing consequences when fundamental values are undermined.



Published on May 10, 2019


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