News / Europe

Hungary's PM Condemns International Critics Amid Economic Uncertainty

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban presents his annual state-of-the-nation speech in Budapest, February 7, 2012.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban presents his annual state-of-the-nation speech in Budapest, February 7, 2012.
Stefan Bos

A defiant Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is defending his financially troubled nation's new constitution and related laws, saying those criticizing it are motivated by greed and want to keep Hungary indebted. Orban's comments come as he faces mounting criticism over perceived autocratic legislation and after his Romanian counterpart resigned amid widespread protests there.

Enjoying the applause of his ruling party faithful while standing in front of a long row of Hungarian flags in Budapest's 'Millennium Park' complex, Orban took time out to defend his embattled government's record.

In his annual state-of-the nation address, Orban indirectly condemned the European Union's executive, the European Commission, which is taking legal steps against a new constitution and related legislation, saying they undermine the independence of Hungary's central bank and the judiciary, and do not respect data privacy principles.

Orban has placed allies in key institutions, such as authorities supervising media, who can take steps against journalists if they violate what critics say are somewhat unclear requirements of balanced reporting.

Rights groups and former dissidents of the Communist-era also have expressed worries that only 14 out of hundreds of religious groups are recognized by the state as churches. Other critics claim the constitution imposes a conservative ideology on the country. The constitution was only approved by lawmakers from the governing parties and went into effect on January 1 of this year.

A defiant Orban told an enthusiastic crowd that he stood by his actions.

He said that the new constitution will be defended "by all means" because it offers good solutions to Hungary's problems. Orban said that the critics are financially motivated by interests in Hungary's markets and resources, and want to keep the nation indebted and dependent on loans. He explained that "Debt is a good deal, if you are on the right end of the stick. Let's not be naive - in truth, this is their problem with the new constitution."

The prime minister's attempt to quell his critics comes amid economic uncertainty in the nation, which is seeking some $26 billion in financial assistance from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, in Romania, students and the elderly, braved winter weather in recent weeks to demand the resignation of the government, amid anger over austerity measures.

At times there were battles with police in the capital Bucharest, where in 1989 Romania witnessed a revolution that toppled Communist dictator Nicoleau Ceausescu.

Until the last moment, Prime Minister Emil Boc tried to defend an increase in the sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent and his government's decision to slash public workers' salaries by one fourth to reduce the budget deficit.

He said they were put in place in exchange for a desperately needed $26 billion loan from the IMF, EU and World Bank in 2009, to help pay salaries and pensions after Romania's economy shrank by more than 7 percent.

But with the critics getting louder, Boc acknowledged in televised remarks this week it was time for new leadership.

The Romanian prime minister said he and his government will resign immediately to protect the stability of the country. Boc added that he was resigning "to ease the social situation" - referring to weeks of protests in Romania over austerity measures that he introduced in 2010.

Boc, who became prime minister in 2008, said the stability of the country must be defended at all costs. He urged Romania's quarreling politicians to be mature and rapidly vote for a new government. But he defended his record, saying he has taken "difficult decisions thinking about the future of Romania, not because he wanted to, but because he had to."

President Traian Basescu named the current head of Romania's foreign intelligence service, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, to be interim prime minister pending the approval of a new government. Parliament is scheduled to vote on the cabinet Thursday. If it does not approve a new executive in 60 days, parliament will be dissolved and new elections will be called.

Analysts say the ruling coalition and its partners from minorities, however, have enough votes to elect a new government ahead of a parliamentary election to be held by November at the latest.

Back in Hungary, there have been anti-government protests as well, although at least 100,000 also supported Prime Minister Orban in a separate rally that the opposition claimed resembled those in Communist North Korea.

Yet, Orban is being pressured by impoverished Hungarians.

Dozens of people have begun marching from Borsod County, one of the country's poorest, to Budapest hoping to bring the plight of their region to the government's attention in what they dubbed “the March for Bread and Work.”

They marched some 180 kilometers despite a cold front that has killed hundreds of people across Eastern Europe, including more than a dozen in Hungary.

Hungary's center-right government has been criticized for legislation under which homeless people who are found sleeping outdoors can face heavy fines of up to $600 or even prison terms.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs