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Hungary Won’t be a Colony - Orbán Says

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the country's sovereignty is at stake and rejected becoming a "colony" dictated by authorities from abroad, even as he sought to revive financial aid talks. Orbán's speech came just two days after he wrote to José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, requesting his assistance in starting talks on a credit line needed to cut his country's high borrowing costs. In the letter, dated March 13, the prime minister said he trusted that the legal dispute with the EU "could soon be settled".

"The Hungarian nation's platform and wish in 2012 is this: we won't be a colony," Orbán told a crowd estimated 200,000 on a national holiday commemorating the 1848 revolution. Hungarians, faced with "international pressure and dictates," will defend their independence, freedom, constitution, and "won't live by the dictates of foreigners."

Hungary, which is seeking to revive financial aid talks with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, is embroiled in a dispute with the EU over a series of laws passed by Orban's government. The government came under international criticism for adopting a constitution that critics say violate common European values and for passing a media law that threatens press freedoms.

"Hungarians write their own constitution and don't need unrequested help from foreigners who wish to direct our hands," Orbán said. "We know very well the nature of unrequested help from comrades, we recognize it even if it's not wearing uniforms but well-trimmed suits."

At a separate demonstration in the center of Budapest, organized by a civic group set up on the social website of Facebook Inc., thousands rallied against Orbán, demanding the restoration of press freedom, constitutional order, and the republic.

The pro-government rally, which drew in a much larger crowd, was attended by a contingent of Polish demonstrators, who arrived in the capital this morning to express their sympathy with Orban's policies.

The EU last week took a formal step toward seeking a court order to make Hungary redraft laws on the judiciary and the data-protection agency and asked for more information on planned changes to a new central-bank law.

Orbán pledged to address the EU's concerns on disputed laws and urged the bloc to start bailout negotiations.

"Financial independence is a precondition to freedom," Orban said. Hungarians need to "break out from the prison of indebtedness" by following "new roads" even if "European bureaucrats view us with suspicion."

Orbán turned to the IMF and the EU for financial assistance in November after the forint weakened to a record against the euro and financing costs soared. Negotiations broke down after Hungary passed a central bank law that the EU said threatens monetary policy independence.

"Even the revolutionaries of 1848 knew that it isn't the central bank that's independent from its nation, but rather the one that defends the nation's economy from foreign interests," Orbán said.

The government effectively nationalized private pension funds and levied windfall taxes on several industries to rein in the budget deficit and cut Hungary's debt level, which stood at over 80 percent of gross domestic product at the end of last year.

EU governments partially froze Hungary's infrastructure development aid as of 2013 this week, giving the country until June 22 to take "effective" action to cut its budget deficit and have the sanction lifted.

Hungarians, who are faced "with a series of injustice," demand "equal treatment" as a European nation and refuse to be "second-rate citizens," Orbán said.

Through his spokesperson, Barroso questioned Orban’s grasp of democratic principles, a rebuke sure to rankle the Hungarian prime minister, who as a young anti-Communist activist became famous for publicly calling for the withdrawal of the Red Army in 1989.

“Those who compare the European Union with the USSR show a complete lack of understanding of what democracy is, in his view,” said the spokesperson, adding she was relating Barroso’s personal comments. “They also fail to understand the important contribution of all those who have defended and fought for freedom and democracy.” 

Source: Bloomberg, Financial Times

Last Updated on Friday, 30 August 2013 09:11

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