Pompeo to build US ties with Hungary’s right-wing leaders

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at the State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 01 February 2019. [EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO]

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Hungary next week, the White House said Wednesday (6 February), as the United States seeks to build ties with nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán following rifts.

US national security adviser John Bolton said he met at the White House with Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and discussed “defense cooperation, energy diversity, confronting Russian malign influence and maintaining our ironclad commitment to NATO.”

“A great preview of our 2019 goals and Secretary Pompeo’s trip next week,”  Bolton tweeted.

Orban, who extolls Christian values and has fought European Union leaders on welcoming refugees, is one of the few Western leaders who has enthusiastically praised US President Donald Trump.

Pompeo is visiting as Orbán faces a wave of street protests that began with a controversial reform of workers’ overtime hours which the opposition has called a “slave law.”

The Trump administration has shown a willingness to work with Orbán, who received a cold shoulder from previous president Barack Obama, but has been annoyed by some recent actions.

The State Department criticized Hungary in November for sending two suspected Russian arm dealers home rather than to the United States to face prosecution.

And the United States voiced disappointment after Hungary’s renowned Central European University said late last year it was obliged to move key study programs to Vienna due to tough requirements imposed by Orbán on universities it considers foreign.

Soros-funded university says it is being forced out of Hungary

Hungary’s Central European University, founded by George Soros, said on Monday  (3 December) it has been forced out of the country in “an arbitrary eviction” that violated academic freedom, and confirmed plans to enrol new students in neighbouring Austria next year.

The university was founded by US-Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is an outspoken proponent of liberal values.

Pompeo will also head on his trip to Poland for a previously announced February 13-14 conference on the Middle East.

US warns Hungary and neighbours against Turkish Stream

The US has repeatedly taken position against Nord Stream 2, a Russia-sponsored pipeline planned to bring gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea. But this time Washington took position against another such pipeline, bringing Russian gas under the Black Sea.

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