Hungary: Bolsonaro and Orban stress shared migration views

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro hug each other at the end of a joint press statement at the Carmelite Monastery in Budapest, Hungary, Thursday, Feb 17, 2022. Bolsonaro is on a one day visit to Hungary after his meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. (AP Photo/Anna Szilagyi)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — The populist leaders of Brazil and Hungary emphasized their shared conservative approach to issues like migration, Christianity and family values during a visit to Hungary’s capital on Thursday by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. 

Speaking at a news briefing in Budapest following bilateral talks, Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, called Bolsonaro’s visit a “historic diplomatic event,” and said that the two leaders shared a single approach to “the world’s large, global challenges.” 


“We have the same approach to migration,” Orban said, adding that Hungary and Brazil had agreed to set up an “early warning system” to detect any international agreements that facilitate migration and to work together to oppose them. 

“There are still some of us — what we call a coalition of the sane — who do not want the world to change as a result of migration,” Orban said.

Bolsonaro’s official visit to Budapest, the first ever by a Brazilian president, came just a day after he met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin — a visit his critics, and even some within his own Cabinet, argued was ill timed due to the ongoing tensions over fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Orban, who has pursued close ties with Putin and himself visited the Kremlin early this month, said on Thursday that “every effort toward diplomacy” was valuable as the “possibility of war casts a shadow over our days.”

An ideological ally of Bolsonaro’s and a proponent of what he calls “illiberal democracy” and a Christian approach to governance, Orban said the two leaders had pledged to extend joint support to persecuted Christian communities in Africa, and discussed what they see as attacks on the traditional family model.

“One man and one woman make a family, and we will do everything we can at every level to make sure that this concept is not relativized,” Orban said.

Bolsonaro, who is expected to run for reelection in October, has suffered recently from his lowest approval rating since his term began in January 2019 — partially a result of his response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has given Brazil a death toll of over 600,000, the second highest in the world.

That leaves him in a vulnerable position ahead of his likely reelection bid, where he is expected to square off against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who early opinion polls show holds a sizeable lead. 

Brazil observers have interpreted his trips to Russia and Hungary as intended to project strength to the electorate — particularly after his chief international ally, former U.S. President Donald Trump, lost his own reelection bid. 

“Both trips are important in terms of his domestic supporters, because they show Bolsonaro as part of a global network of strong leaders, committed to traditional values, religion, nationalism,” said Maurício Santoro, professor of international relations at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. 

One of the few foreign leaders to attend Bolsonaro’s presidential inauguration in Brazil in 2019, Orban, who himself faces a close race ahead of Hungarian elections on April 3, is often praised by the Brazilian leader’s far-right allies. 

In a speech in Congress’ Lower House in March 2021, Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a lawmaker who presided over the foreign relations committee at the time, called the Hungarian prime minister a “reference.”

Yet despite their ideological proximity, the two leaders differ on their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination. 

A Brazilian Senate report recommended last year that Bolsonaro, who says he is unvaccinated, be charged with crimes against humanity and other charges for allegedly bungling Brazil’s response to COVID-19.

Orban’s government, on the other hand, has emphasized the importance of vaccination as the only path to bringing the pandemic under control.

On Thursday, Brazil and Hungary signed memoranda of understanding on advancing defense cooperation, as well as in the areas of humanitarianism and water management and sanitation. 

“We only spent a very brief time in Hungary but this will have a huge impact on our nations,” Bolsonaro said.