Trump ready to renew conservative alliance with Hungary’s Orban

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 4:05 AM

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Donald Trump is ready to renew a conservative alliance with Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the U.S. Republican presidential candidate said in a video message on Friday.

Orban has been one of Trump’s closest allies in Europe, where comments by the former U.S. president suggesting he would not protect countries that failed to meet NATO defence spending commitments have raised nerves among leaders.

A new Trump presidency could ease U.S. relations with Hungary, which has come under critiscim by Washington for its close ties to Russia and foot-dragging over the ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession, which Budapest finally agreed to in February.

“I look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Orban once again when I take the oath of office as the 47th President of the United States,” Trump said, calling the Hungarian leader a “great man”.

Trump’s message was broadcast at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the United States’ most prominent conservative gathering, in Budapest, the third such CPAC event in Hungary.

The years of Trump’s presidency brought a closer relationship between the U.S. and Hungary after previous administrations accused Orban’s government of curbing democratic freedoms, including press freedom and the independence of the judiciary.

“As president I was proud to work with Prime Minister Orban, by the way a great man, to advance the values and interests of our two nations,” Trump said. “We cracked down on illegal immigration, protected our borders, created jobs and defended our traditions and Judeo-Christian values.”

Orban, who was re-elected for a fourth consecutive term after a landslide election victory in 2022, is seen by many on the American hard-right as a model for his tough policies on immigration and support for families and Christian conservatism.

Trump met Orban in Florida in March. After their meeting, Orban lent his support to the former president and said that only the return of Trump to the White House could bring peace in Ukraine.

In a speech to CPAC on Thursday, Orban said that 2024 was a year of elections around to world and conservative forces should work to win to end the “liberal hegemony”.

This years’ European and local elections may be the toughest in Orban’s 14-year rule with the country’s economy in recession, an abuse scandal striking his family-values platform at its core, and a political newcomer threatening to upend the status quo.

Despite those challenges, Orban’s Fidesz remains the most popular party in Hungary.

(Reporting by Anita Komuves and Gergely Szakacs, Editing by Angus MacSwan)