Prime Minister Viktor Orbán became the first sitting leader of a European Union country to formally endorse Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. Speaking at a gathering of right-wing politicians, thinkers and youth, in the heart of the Hungarian-majority region of Romania called Székelyföld (or Szeklerland), Mr. Orbán declared: “Trump would be better for Europe and for Hungary.” He then referred to Mr. Trump as being “outstanding.”
The full-length of Mr. Orbán’s comments in the Hungarian-majority town of Tusnádfürdő (in Romanian: Băile Tușnad) on Saturday sounded like this (in our English translation):
“I am not Donald Trump’s campaign man. I never thought that I would one day entertain the possibility that from amongst the possibilities, he would after all be better for Europe and for Hungary. I would never have imagined this, and yet this is how things stand now. I listened to this candidate and I have to tell you that he made three proposals to halt terrorism, and as a European, I could have hardly expressed what is best for Europe any better than he did.”
Mr. Orbán noted that the three elements in Mr. Trump’s platform that he most agreed with were the belief that immigration poses a security risk, the national security apparatus must be expanded and the West must stop trying to export democracy to other parts of the world.
Other than Mr. Orbán’s endorsement today, no other sitting leader of a NATO member state, or of any other European country has injected him or herself so directly into the US presidential campaign. Thus far, only opposition leaders, like France’s Marine Le Pen or Britain’s Nigel Farage, have offered such endorsements. Mr. Orbán’s decision is odd and risky for two reasons. First, Hillary Clinton is still the favourite to win the November election, with the prominent FiveThirtyEight website currently giving her a 59% chance of winning. (That said, Mrs. Clinton’s margin has been decreasing in recent days, and the gap between the two candidates has been narrowing.) The second reason why Mr. Orbán’s decision to endorse is odd has to do with Mr. Trump’s explicitly noncommittal attitude to NATO–an organization that is critically important to the security of Eastern and Central Europe, especially as Russia becomes more aggressive.
All that having been said, Mr. Orbán is certainly known to use his annual mid-summer speech in Tusnádfürdő as a place to test controversial rhetoric and ideas, and then watch how the media reacts during the doldrums of the summer months.