LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday, but faced criticism for inviting the hardline European leader to 10 Downing St.
The meeting came ahead of Hungary assuming the presidency of the Visegrád Group of Central European nations in July, and Johnson's office said “the prime minister looked forward to the U.K. working more closely with the group in future.”
In a statement, Johnson’s office said the two leaders discussed issues including security and climate change. It said Johnson raised human rights with Orban, an anti-immigration nationalist who has clamped down on media and judicial freedom and described Muslim migrants as invaders who threaten Europe’s Christian cultural identity.
Johnson's office said the prime minister “raised his significant concerns about human rights in Hungary, including gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom.”
“The leaders also discussed a number of foreign policy issues including Russia, Belarus and China," Downing Street said. "The prime minister encouraged Hungary to use their influence to promote democracy and stability.”
Hungary is a European Union member, but Orban has previously praised Johnson for taking Britain out of the bloc. He is an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has twice blocked the EU from issuing statements condemning China for actions in Hong Kong.
Johnson speaks regularly with EU leaders, but has held relatively few face-to-face meetings since the coronavirus pandemic began more than a year ago. The most recent was with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin earlier this month.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng defended the Orban meeting, saying leaders had to meet counterparts “whose values we don’t necessarily share.”
Opposition Labour Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy said Johnson should challenge Orban’s “repeated attempts to undermine democratic values.”
“Anything less than a robust rejection of these acts is tantamount to rolling out the red carpet,” she said.
The Associated Press