By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
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BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– British Prime Minister David Cameron is visiting Hungary on Thursday amid tensions over his plans to cut benefits for Eastern Europeans in Britain, including Hungarians, though he is expected to agree with his Hungarian counterpart on limiting the power of the European Union.
Cameron arrived in snow covered Budapest amid tight security at a time of wrangling with Hungary and other Eastern European member states ahead of a British referendum, on whether Britain should remain in the EU. The vote is scheduled to be held before the end of next year.
Several government leaders have condemned his attempts to limit welfare benefits to hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans, including Hungarians, now in Britain.
The British leader is seeking to cut benefits as part of his efforts to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the 28-nation EU.
Among other groups, the proposal would cover the hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans, including Hungarians, now in Britain. He also has made it clear he wants to end the possibility of Eastern European migrants to receive benefits as soon as they arrive.
However Hungary’s government has already objected to the term migrants saying Hungarians are in Britain as part of a general freedom of movement agreements within the EU.
On Wednesday, January 6, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán met Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, which also opposes Britain’s plan to cut benefits.
Ahead of his trip to Hungary, Cameron also visited countries such as Poland and Romania last month where he acknowledged differences remain between Britain and newer EU member states. “We also discussed how we can reform the EU to make it more competitive. And address the concerns of the British people about our membership,” he told reporters.
“But I recognize that some areas are more difficult than others, particularly the reforms I have proposed on welfare,” Cameron added.
Yet, Cameron and his Hungarian counterpart Orbán are expected to agree that they reject the notion that the EU should become a United States of Europe. Both men favour a Europe composed of nation-states. Analysts say they are also expected to agree that there should be less in reference by Brussels in their domestic affairs.
They also demand that EU members which are not part of the euro zone should have a given a bigger say in influencing decisions within the zone that could impact them.
The influential far right Jobbik party urged Orbán to strike an alliance with Cameron to in its words “recover Hungary’s national sovereignty”.
Jobbik has repeatedly proposed amending the European Union’s basic treaties and Hungary’s accession treaty, but the ruling Fidesz has rejected this.
Cameron’s trip comes ahead of a British scheduled before the end of 201S on whether Britain should remain in the EU.
He also arrives amid wider concerns in Britain and Hungary over the influx of refugees in Europe.
Hungary has been building fences along its borders with Croatia and Serbia to halt the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty.
(BosNewsLife’s NEW EUROPE is a regular look at key news developments in the former Communist nations impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals. BosNewsLife is based in Budapest, Hungary).