Hungary’s task in its relationship with the United Kingdom is to establish new forms of cooperation with the country following its departure from the European Union, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said after talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Friday.
Hungary and the UK had developed their relations during a period when they were both members of the EU, Orbán told reporters in Downing Street, adding that that period was now over.
Orbán said his talks with Johnson had focused mainly on the future of Hungarian-UK relations, while also covering opportunities for cooperation between Britain and the Visegrad Group countries.
He highlighted the energy and defence industries as two “particularly promising” areas of their bilateral ties.
Orbán noted that Hungary’s gas delivery agreement signed with Shell was the country’s first long-term energy deal that did not involve Russian energy suppliers.
Asked if he believed there was a chance that Hungary and the UK would lift quarantine restrictions for each other’s citizens given both countries’ high vaccination rates, Orbán said the decision was up to the British government.
Orbán said it was understandable that the UK government was being “highly cautious” when it came to lifting restrictions, given that it is an island country, which he said made things more difficult than in the cases of landlocked countries.
He added that hopefully the two countries’ foreign ministers would sign an agreement on the mutual recognition of each other’s immunity certificates.
In response to a question, Orbán said his talks with Johnson had also touched on issues concerning democracy, the press, the LGBT community and the rule of law.
He said Hungary’s judiciary was among the most independent in Europe, adding that there was an abundance of publications in the country that are critical of the government.
The prime minister dismissed accusations of anti-Semitism as “simply ridiculous”, noting that Hungary had a large Jewish community.
Orbán rejected the suggestion that US financier George Soros had been the target of attacks with anti-Semitic undertones. He called Soros a “talented Hungarian businessman”, adding at the same time that he was also a “serious rival” for “supporting migration” and “financing NGOs that organise it”. “We don’t like this, but this has nothing to do with ethnic identity,” Orbán said.
Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement after the meeting that the prime minister was looking forward to the UK working more closely with the Visegrad Group in the future.
The statement said that in his talks with Orbán, Johnson had raised concerns about human rights in Hungary, including gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom.
The two premiers also discussed several foreign policy issues including Russia, Belarus and China. “The Prime Minister encouraged Hungary to use their influence to promote democracy and stability,” the statement said.
Featured photo by Vivien Cher Benko/PM’s Press Office