Varadkar was right to visit Hungary

 

Sir, – I am sure the Taoiseach does not need my defending his meeting with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. However, let me reflect on Brendan Howlin’s article in the opinion section of The Irish Times (“Varadkar was wrong to visit Orbán”, Opinion & Analysis, January 12th).

Every left-wing politician is free to suggest that the leader of the Government should only meet people of the same viewpoint, but in that case there would not even be a chance to raise issues where there is disagreement.

Just imagine if the Taoiseach wanted to meet his Spanish counterpart. There could be criticism coming from parties because of the Catalonian problem.

Some leaning far-left will say the Taoiseach should not travel to the White House on St Patrick’s Day or should not meet the Chinese president, but where would a foreign policy like that lead to?

Instead of isolation on the basis of ideology, a government has to engage with other countries, build relations post-Brexit, find areas of mutual interest and work together as deeply as possible.

That was exactly what the Taoiseach did in Budapest. He discussed issues of common interest and raised issues where Ireland disagrees with Hungary. Equally, the Hungarian government is not afraid to discuss questions where we do not agree with our partners.

Mr Orbán expressed to the Taoiseach that he was not in favour of the EU response to the migrant crisis and maintained the point that the EU’s external borders have to be protected.

On this note, let me clarify once again that the Hungarian government is not against legal migration, but firmly opposes any mandatory relocation quotas.

On the other hand, Ireland and Hungary agreed on opposing any move to harmonise taxes in the EU and the need to protect the Common Agricultural Policy.

Both Mr Varadkar and Mr Orbán agreed it was important for our countries to be able to set our own tax rules to allow for competition.

There was mutual understanding on Brexit and both countries want to see a close relationship between the UK and EU in future, including uninterrupted trade in goods and services, which is more important for Ireland than to Hungary.

I am sure this sends the right message to the Irish. – Yours, etc,

ISTVÁN S PÁLFFY,

Ambassador of Hungary,

Embassy of Hungary,

Fitzwilliam Place,

Dublin 2.