FILE PHOTO: Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk as they attend the European Union leaders summit dominated by Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo
By Marton Dunai
May 28, 2021
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary is missing Britain's presence within the European Union and the two countries need to build new bilateral ties, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday ahead of a meeting with his UK counterpart Boris Johnson.
Orban, a maverick nationalist who has locked horns with the EU over a perceived erosion of democratic standards in Hungary and rows over immigration, is working to build a new conservative alliance within Europe.
"We are talking about a nuclear power that quit the EU, which was bad for us and still is bad for us. We suffer from Britain's absence," Orban told public radio. "We agreed on many things, which created a sort of balance in the EU."
"But the question now is where their place will be in the world. We need to build a new bilateral cooperation."
He added that Brexit, which came into force when Britain left the EU single market at the start of this year, set the overall direction, but Hungary would seek specific cooperation areas within that framework. He did not go into detail.
Orban met with Spanish far-right leader Santiago Abascal on Thursday and called him an important up-and-coming ally in the bloc, adding that Britain would also form an important plank in Hungary's future foreign policy strategy.
Both Abascal's Vox party and Johnson's Conservatives are members of the international European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party, a likely destination for Orban's Fidesz, which seeks a new European political home.
Orban was ousted from the mainstream European conservative alliance, the European People's Party, which suspended Fidesz in 2019 after repeated democratic transgressions. It broke ranks completely this year.
Orban has also been in talks with ECR members from Poland and Italy about a new political alliance.