Hungarian PM Orban to meet ally Trump on March 8

U.S. President Trump welcomes Hungary's Prime Minister Orban at the White House in Washington
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By Krisztina Than

BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban will meet former U.S. President Donald Trump this coming Friday in Florida, shortly after he openly endorsed his long-time ally's bid to return to the U.S. presidency this year.

The right-wing Orban, who has regularly been at loggerheads with the EU over his anti-immigration campaigns and moves to put the judiciary, NGOs, and media under more state control, has been described by Trump as a "great leader".

Orban's conservative family policies have also earned praise among populist figures in the United States, and Hungary has hosted meetings of CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in the past years.

Next month Hungary will host CPAC for the third time.

The Hungarian premier, who has refused to send weapons to Ukraine and kept up close economic ties with Russia since the Russian invasion in 2022, has repeatedly said that only the return of Trump to the White House could bring peace in Ukraine.

"It is not gambling but actually betting on the only sensible chance, that we in Hungary bet on the return of President Trump," Orban told an economic forum on Monday.

"The only chance of the world for a relatively fast peace deal is political change in the United States, and this is linked to who is the president."

Trump, who is seeking reelection, caused outrage among Western allies last month after suggesting the United States might not protect NATO allies who are not spending enough on defence from a potential Russian invasion.

Orban has said the U.S. presidential election this year and the vote for the European Parliament in June would be crucial as conservatives in Europe and the U.S. must fight together to "reconquer" institutions in Washington and Brussels from liberals who, according to Orban, threaten Western civilisation.

Orban, in power since 2010, has faced tensions with President Joe Biden's administration, mainly over Budapest's foot-dragging concerning the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership.

After a long delay, the Hungarian parliament last week approved Sweden's NATO bid and the legislation await a final sign off by the president this week.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Kim Coghill, Stephen Coates and Angus MacSwan)