Thursday 18 January 2018

I was right to meet 'anti-migrant' Hungarian PM - Varadkar

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban. Picture: Reuters
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban. Picture: Reuters
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended his meeting with controversial Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

He said there may be suggestions that he shouldn't meet other world leaders, including Donald Trump, but the Government should engage and raise issues where there is disagreement.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin criticised the meeting with Mr Orbán, accusing him of stoking "right-wing populism and anti-migrant sentiment".

Mr Orbán took a hard-line approach in response to the migrant crisis in 2015 and has also been criticised from within the EU over civil liberties issues.

Mr Varadkar defended his meeting with Mr Orbán saying there will be people who say he shouldn't meet other world leaders, including some from the EU.

He said: "I'd imagine if I met the prime minister of Spain, Sinn Féin would criticise me about that because of Catalonia.

"Lots of the far left don't think I should travel to America to speak with President Trump. And I assume none of them think I should meet the Chinese or anyone in the Middle East."

He said Ireland's foreign policy could be about "splendid isolation" or that "you could actually engage with people, find areas of common interest and work on them together".

He at the same time you should also "not be afraid to raise and discuss issues where you don't agree".

Mr Varadkar said he raised Ireland's support for the EU burden sharing policy in relation to taking in refugees with the Hungarian leader. Mr Orbán has been a critic of this plan and told the Taoiseach why the migration issue is important to Hungary for historic reasons.

The two leaders strongly agreed on opposing any move to harmonise taxes across the EU and the need to protect the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as the EU begins talks on its long-term budget post 2020.

Mr Varadkar will travel to Bulgaria today to meet prime minister Boyko Borissov.

Irish Independent

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