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Taoiseach criticised for visiting 'undemocratic' Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán

Leo Varadkar will meet Orbán in Budapest later today.

Viktor Orbán.
Viktor Orbán.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Updated 10.20am

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR is facing criticism from opposition benches for travelling to Budapest to meet Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Varadkar will visit the Hungarian capital today before later travelling to Bulgaria where he will meet Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

The government say the visits are part of an ongoing programme of engagement with EU leaders in the context of discussions on the future of Europe and Brexit negotiations.

Labour party leader Brendan Howlin has raised a number of questions about the visit including why the meeting with Orbán was added to the agenda with little publicity.

EU summit on Brexit and migration Source: DPA/PA Images

Howlin said that before the Dáil broke for Christmas he asked the Taoiseach about his planned visits over the next six months but the Budapest trip was never mentioned.

Because of this Howlin alleges that Varadkar either misled the Dáil or else the visit has been arranged at the last-minute.

“Unfortunately the visit will be seen as an implicit endorsement by the Taoiseach and Ireland of the policies that Orbán’s government has pursued including his recent propaganda campaigns against Muslims, the EU, and also on George Soros that has verged on anti-semitism,” Howlin said.

The Taoiseach will now become one of the few EU leaders to directly visit Orbán in Budapest in recent years.

Howlin added that Orbán has stoked right-wing populism and anti-migrant sentiment and removed constitutional checks and balances.

Orbán was one of a number of EU leaders who refused to accept the plan for compulsory quotas for asylum seekers. He cracked down on immigration and famously erected a fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia.

I hope the Taoiseach will have the courage to defend both the values Ireland and the EU have upheld when he meets with Orbán tomorrow and to criticise the divisive path that Hungary is pursing within the EU.

Responding to Labour leader’s comments a government spokesperson said the Taoiseach believes in a policy of engagement when it comes to foreign and European affairs.

That inevitably involves meeting people who’s policies you don’t agree with and values you may not share and of course a willingness to raise those issues in meetings which the Taoiseach will do.

Speaking before his departure, the Taoiseach said the visits are a “good opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our countries and the EU in 2018.”

I will take the opportunity to highlight Ireland’s priorities for Phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations, and to thank the Prime Ministers for their support to date.

The Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee, will also go on the trip.

READ: Hungarian Prime Minister says migrant crisis is ‘a German problem, not a European one’>

READ: Indian airline grounds pilots over allegations they had a fight and both stormed out of cockpit mid-flight>

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Ceimin Burke

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