BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned fellow EU leaders on Thursday that they were failing to address Europe’s problems and risked seeing Britain gain from its exit from the bloc.
Orban warned that Britain, whose prime minister will meet U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, was very likely to be offered a trade agreement with the United States, which could make some EU countries question the benefits of membership.
“We are in the danger that others will follow... There will be the constant danger in the future in the European Union, a kind of temptation following the British that getting out of the European Union... could result in a better position for you than staying in the European Union,” he said.
Orban has praised Trump and often battled Brussels. His determination to keep out migrants and refugees, including by building razor-wire border fences, has angered his fellow European Union leaders.
He said Europe needed to engage with Trump to form a bilateral agreement on military and economic questions.
“Otherwise the others will be first and the European Union will be left behind,” he said.
In a speech in Brussels, Orban said a new era was “knocking on the door of Europe”, with politicians in denial about Europe’s loss of competitiveness and dismissive of votes that have brought in Trump and will lead to Britain’s EU exit.
“Many people are trying to convince us there is less to this than meet the eye,” Orban said. “This is foolish.”
He said Europe was failing to resolve four major problems - of growth and competitiveness, democracy, security and foreign policy.
Orban said Europe needed to form a credible defence alliance that did not rely on the United States alone, and had to make itself more competitive.
The Hungarian prime minister was critical of what he said was a media obsession with labelling politicians as populist and electorates as “crazy”, saying political leaders were losing elections because they were failing their people.
Orban did have a good word to say about French presidential candidate Francois Fillon. “He’s a good hope for us, but who can guarantee that he will win.”
Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Dominic Evans