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Pompeo scheduled to visit Hungary for meetings, Poland for Middle East conference

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo prepares for morning interviews with FOX and CBS news at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 4, 2018. (U.S. State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Hungary next week to meet with leaders of the government of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is facing a growing number of protests on the streets against his right-wing policies.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton on February 6 said he met at the White House with Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto for discussions on “defense cooperation, energy diversity, confronting Russian malign influence, and maintaining our ironclad commitment to NATO.”

Bolton called it “a great preview of our 2019 goals and Secretary Pompeo’s trip next week.” Bolton did not specify if Pompeo would meet with Orban or the exact date of the visit.

Pompeo is scheduled to visit neighboring Poland for a conference on the Middle East on February 13-14. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is also scheduled to attend the conference.

Critics have accused Orban of dismantling democracy in Hungary and repressing independent media. He’s also been accused of being too accommodating to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The State Department in November criticized Hungary for sending two suspected Russian arm dealers back to Russia rather than to the United States to face prosecution.

U.S. officials also expressed disappointment after Hungary’s Central European University said late in 2018 that it was forced to move key study programs to Vienna because of tough requirements imposed by Orban on universities it considers foreign.

The university was founded by U.S.-Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who has pressed for liberal values in Hungary and elsewhere and is a frequent target of right-wing politicians.

Recent protests in Hungary have centered on opposition to a controversial reform of workers’ overtime hours that the opposition has called a “slave law.”