Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban 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.
“The Hungarian nation’s platform and wish in 2012 is this: we won’t be a colony,” Orban told a crowd estimated at more than 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,” Orban 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 Orban, 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.
Orban 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.”
Orban 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,” Orban 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,” Orban said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Edith Balazs in Budapest at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at email@example.com