LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was meeting Hungarian President Viktor Orban on Friday, and faced criticism for inviting the hardline European leader to 10 Downing St.
Johnson’s office said it was a routine meeting with the leader of a major European Union nation. The prime minister’s spokesman, Max Blain, said “cooperation with Hungary is vital to the U.K’s prosperity and security.”
But he said Johnson would not hesitate to raise 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.
“On all human rights issues we do not shy away from raising them. The PM has condemned those specific comments which were divisive and wrong,” Blain said.
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.
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.