China offers to deepen security ties with Hungary

China has offered to deepen security cooperation with Hungary, underscoring Budapest’s warming ties with Beijing just as Hungarian officials snubbed a visiting delegation from Washington.

Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, met China’s minister of public security, Wang Xiaohong, on Friday.

In comments published by China’s official Xinhua news agency over the weekend, Wang said he was hoping to “deepen cooperation in areas including counter-terrorism, combating transnational crimes, security and law enforcement capacity building under the belt and road initiative”.

The aim, according to the Chinese minister, would be “to make law enforcement and security cooperation a new highlight of bilateral relations”.

Hungary is a member of the EU and Nato, making China’s offer highly unusual.

Wang Xiaohong (left) with Viktor Orbán in Budapest on Friday. Photograph: Vivien Cher Benko/Hungarian PM’s press office/EPA

Budapest, which also maintains closer links to Moscow than any other EU member, has been nurturing a relationship with Beijing. Last year, Orbán was the only EU leader to attend a forum of the belt and road initiative in Beijing. China’s electrical vehicle manufacturer BYD has said it will open its first European production factory in Hungary.

In a statement about Friday’s meeting with Wang, a spokesperson for Orbán said the prime minister had declared that “respect is increasingly missing from international diplomacy, but it has always remained between Hungary and China”.

“The negotiating parties drew attention to the importance of security and stability,” the spokesperson said.

The prospect of greater security cooperation between Budapest and Beijing comes at a time when Hungary’s relationship with its EU and Nato allies is at a low point.

While Hungary’s standing in western capitals has been deteriorating for years, Budapest’s decision to renege on a promise not to be the last to ratify Sweden’s Nato application has further undermined trust.

Budapest’s isolation was demonstrated over the weekend at the Munich security conference, from which senior Hungarian officials were absent.

However, in a speech in Hungary on Saturday, Orbán signalled a shift, announcing that “we are on course to ratify Sweden’s accession to Nato at the beginning of parliament’s spring session”.

The continued strain was on full display over the weekend, as Hungarian officials refused to meet visitors from Washington.

“Allies have been awaiting Hungary’s action on Sweden’s accession to Nato for 21 months,” the US ambassador in Budapest, David Pressman, wrote on social media.

“Regrettably, a range of senior Hungarian government officials and Fidesz parliamentary representatives declined to meet with the most senior US bipartisan congressional delegation to visit Hungary in years,” he added.

In his weekend speech, Orbán – who is facing domestic political pressure and protests amid a scandal that led to the resignation of the country’s president – made his preferences clear.

“We cannot interfere in other countries’ elections, but we would very much like to see President Donald Trump return to the White House and make peace here in the eastern half of Europe.”


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