Orbán hosts ‘surprise’ visit by Irish counterpart

Visits

Tibor Illyés / MTI

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán welcomed Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Budapest yesterday. The Irish Times and other sources report that Varadkar has been criticized at home for concealing the visit until the last minute.

Orbán and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) in Budapest on Thursday. (Photo: MTI/Tibor Illyés.)

Bilateral ties are strong and cultural ties go back a long way, while Hungary is an important economic partner for Ireland with 12,000 Hungarians living and working in the country, Varadkar said at a joint press conference after the meeting.   

Orbán said the two leaders had discussed tax policy, adding that lowering taxes is a good idea in general. He nevertheless stressed that Hungary does not want any kind of tax regime that would “bind its hands,” expressing the view that tax harmonization ideas in the European Union are not the way to go.

RTE.ie, the website of Irelandʼs national public service broadcaster, reported that Varadkar and Orbán also discussed the issues of migration and Brexit.

Varadkar expressed appreciation for the support from Hungary in relation to Irelandʼs specific concerns on Brexit, particularly on issues around the border with Northern Ireland, the report noted.

The two men discussed Europeʼs approach to managing migration, with the Taoiseach noting that Ireland and Hungaryʼs views diverge on the issue. Ireland supports the concept of burden sharing and Hungary does not, Varadkar was cited as saying, while adding that he believes dialogue is the best way to bring the sides together.

Criticism at home

Back in Ireland, Irish Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin called for an explanation as to why the visit by the Taoiseach to the Hungarian leader was not revealed earlier, the Irish Times reported.

Howlin accused Varadkar of not telling the Dáil, Irelandʼs lower house, of his intentions to visit Orbán. A spokeswoman for the Taoiseach responded by saying the visit was only organized just before Christmas.

Nevertheless, Howlin called on Varadkar to denounce the policies pursued by the Hungarian government.  Otherwise, he suggested, the visit would be viewed by Orbán as an “implicit endorsement” of his policies, which Howlin described as “anti-democratic, against EU values and the rule of law.”

For his part, Varadkar described his visit to Hungary, and his subsequent trip to Bulgaria today, as a “good opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our countries and the EU in 2018.”

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