President Donald Trump came to the defense of the strongman leader of Hungary as the European Union deals with the country's authoritarianism.
"After long indulging him, leaders in the European Union now widely consider one of their own, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, an existential threat to a bloc that holds itself up as a model of human rights and the rule of law. Mr. Orban has spent the past decade steadily building his 'illiberal state,' as he proudly calls Hungary, with the help of lavish E.U. funding. Even as his project widened fissures in the bloc, his fellow national leaders mostly looked the other way, committed to staying out of one another’s affairs," The New York Times reported Monday. "But now Mr. Orban’s defiance and intransigence has had an important, if unintended, effect: serving as a catalyst for an often-sluggish European Union system to act to safeguard the democratic principles that are the foundation of the bloc."
The newspaper explained the European Court of Justice will issue a ruling soon on whether the E.U. has the power to make funding conditional on countries upholding core values.
"Interviews with over a dozen current and former European officials show how sentiments toward Mr. Orban and his illiberal project evolved from complacency and incomprehension to a recognition that he had become a serious internal threat — despite Hungary’s having fewer people than Paris and a language so esoteric that it bears no relationship to those of its neighbors," the newspaper reported. "Attitudes have shifted. With taxpayer money at stake, the next seven-year budget in the balance and the disregard for shared values shown by Mr. Orban and [Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski] on leaders’ minds, Brussels may have finally found a useful tool to affect domestic politics, with a mix of lawsuits charging infringement of European treaties combined with severe financial consequences."
Hours after the report was published by The Times, Trump weighed in and offered Orban his support.
"Viktor Orbán of Hungary truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people," Trump claimed in a statement emailed to reporters.
"He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs, trade, and should be allowed to continue to do so in the upcoming Election. He is a strong leader and respected by all. He has my Complete support and Endorsement for reelection as Prime Minister!" Trump wrote.