While US President Donald Trump conducted his combative press conference at the White House last week, one of his truest friends in Europe was in New Zealand defending him.

Hungary's young Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, aged 38, was in Wellington to open a new embassy in a high-rise on Lambton Quay.

But diplomatic discourse everywhere is focused on Trump.

"The international media has been so unfair to him," he said. "If Hillary Clinton said the same things as Donald Trump is saying now, she would be celebrated by the liberal international media."

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Hungary could be described as Trump's soul mate in Europe.

Often seen as the "bad boys of Europe," the populist right-wing Government of Viktor Orban has attracted a lot of criticism from within Hungary, Europe and from the former Obama Administration. It is very close to Russia.

It built a wire fence on its southern border with armed guards after thousands of refugees poured through the country in 2015 en route to Western Europe.

It is building container camps to hold asylum seekers on its borders while their status is determined. It has refused to accept the EU's proposal to resettle refugees by quota. It does not even accept the term "refugees."

Szijjarto says the 1.5 million who arrived it was a "mass illegal migration."
And he rejects the label "bad boys of Europe."

"We are the honest boys of Europe, the honest boys of the European Union because we hate political correctness and we hate hypocrisy," he told the Herald.

"We think these are the two issues, political correctness and hypocrisy which caused so much trouble to the European Union."

The EU faced historic challenges - migration, the threat of terror, Brexit, energy security, war in Ukraine "and the reason we have not found proper answers so far is that we were not able to name the challenges properly."

He said the vote by Britain to leave the EU was a consequence of the mismanagement of the European Commission.

The sanctions against Russia over Crimea had failed politically and economically.

"But if you speak like this in the European Union, you are always going to be bashed and abused and described as 'bad boys' in the media.

"We will not give up on that. We will always be honest. "

A raft of new laws, including moves to weaken the role of Hungary's Constitutional Court attracted the criticism of the European Commission and the Obama Administration.
And Szijjarto was snubbed in Washington.

He was refused a meeting with his counterpart at the time, Secretary of State John Kerry. Instead he was handed what is known in diplomatic terms as a "non-paper" by an assistant Secretary of State with a list of the measures Hungary had to take before its relationship with the US could be upgraded.

"We in Hungary have suffered in the last six years from attempts to interfere in our internal politics by the Democrat Administration.

"If you look around the world, this American foreign policy which wanted everyone to believe that one-size fits all actually created many unstable situations all over the world.

"Now with Donald Trump taking away the 'export of democracy' from the focus of their foreign policy things will be better for the whole world," Szijjarto said.

Commenting on Brexit in a speech later, Szijjarto said the worst thing the EU could do would be to punish the UK.

"Our position is that the stupidest, dumbest way to deal with this issue on behalf of Europe would be to penalise them.

"Unfortunately some European bureaucrats in Brussels feel themselves personally insulted by the decision of the British and they want to penalise them, which is the worst possible scenario.

"It is in the interests of the European Union to stay in the tightest possible co-operation, economically speaking, trade-wise speaking, investment-wise speaking with the UK."

Despite Hungary's trenchant criticism of the EU, Szijjarto said Hungary remained a committed member of the EU and it had no intention of leaving.

In New Zealand, Szijjarto opened a new embassy, spoke to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs (NZIIA), attended business seminars and dined with Foreign Minister Murray McCully, whom Szijjarto entertained at his own private holiday home last August in Hungary.

Szijjarto was questioned at the NZIIA meeting by Estonia's honorary Consul, Tony Loorparg, who arrived in New Zealand as a boy in 1949 by ship and with many Hungarian refugees. He said the minister's description of refugees did not equate with his own experience as a refugees.

All were escaping totalitarian rule.

"My concern is that some of the lessons that Europe tried to correct after the Second World War are starting to be forgotten by some Governments of Europe," Loorparg said to resounding applause.

Szijjarto responded by saying it was wrong to equate Hungary's refugees with the behaviour of those who had marched through Hungary in 2015.

"None of them attacked Austrian police. None of them behaved in an inappropriate manner. They respected the rules and regulations of the given country. They were thankful to be taken by someone. And when the decision was made that they could leave, they left."

They waited patiently in refugee camps until they could go somewhere "for which we are always grateful, for example, to New Zealand."

"But the behaviour of the 1.5 million in 2015 who marched through countries in an aggressive way was quite different,"Szijjarto said.

"Please, please, do not [draw] a parallel between them because it is not the same."

Szijjarto said there were several reasons Hungary wanted an embassy in Wellington: there was a Hungarian community in New Zealand of about 3000 people; it furthered the aims of economic diplomacy and would strengthen commercial ties; and it would enhance cultural relations.

Hungary has an open economy and is a strong advocate of free trade agreements including with New Zealand.

"Hungary will be the strongest promoter of that."

Szijjarto said he regretted the length of time it was taking to get EU - NZ FTA talks underway.

"We understand you are strong in agriculture, we understand that would increase competition but I think all these concerns should be addressed during the negotiations."

HUNGARY IN BRIEF

● Population 10 million
● Land-locked country in central Europe, bordered by Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia
● Modern history: Fought with Germany in World War I as part of Austria-Hungary which split at the end of the war, and with Germany in World War II; 1945 Soviets occupied Hungary as Germans were driven out; 1956 Uprising against Soviet occupation, many Hungarians flee including over 1000 to NZ; 1989 - 91 Occupation ends when Soviet Union collapses: 1999 Hungary joins Nato; 2004 Hungary joins European Union
● Ran a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan; has 150 troops in Erbil in Iraq
● Trade $69 million (NZ exports $2 million and imports $67 million, mainly motor vehicles and parts, and vacuum cleaners
● GDP $NZ190 billion
● GDP per capita $NZ19,327 (NZ's is $61,000)
● Big NZ business in Hungary - AHI roofing
● Prominent Kiwis descended from Hungarian refugees: former Green MP Nandor Tanczos, Court of Appeal President Stephen Kos