Hungarian PM hails Trump's 'America First' lead

Budapest (AFP) - Hungarian strongman premier Viktor Orban on Monday hailed US President Donald Trump's "America First" pledge, saying it was a "gift" to other nations who could now follow suit.

"We have received permission from the highest secular office in the world, in line with which we will also be allowed to place ourselves first," the right-wing leader said.

"This is a great thing: a great freedom and a great gift," the eurosceptic head of government added in a speech in Budapest.

Orban, one of the few national leaders to openly support Trump's White House campaign, said the billionnaire's aggressively nationalist vow signalled a welcome return to a "bilateral" era, notably in economic and military matters.

Trump launched the "America First" slogan in a fiery inauguration speech when he succeeded Barack Obama as the 45th president of the United States last week.

Orban, who was speaking at an economic conference, is fiercely eurosceptic and warned Europe to abandon "the illusion of federalism".

But the controversial 53-year-old called for the revival of joint defence plans which would allow European Union (EU) nations to organise their own defence.

Orban welcomed the fact that former French premier Francois Fillon, the main rightwing candidate to succeed President Francois Hollande in elections this year, backed the idea of a European defence alliance.

He called Fillon "the next president of the French Republic, we hope?. Fillon is widely expected to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the run-off second round of presidential elections in May.

Orban, who will host Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks in Budapest on February 2, has called for the lifting of sanctions on Moscow, which US intelligence services claim was behind hacking during the US election campaign aimed at favouring a Trump victory.

In the past he has also said that letting in too many Muslims, among migrants who flooded into Europe notably from the Syrian war over the last two years, risks undermining Europe's democratic values and its Christian traditions.