RPT-Hungary wants equal EU treatment, PM Orban tells rally
* Pro-govt protest attracts 250,000-local news agency
* PM Orban: will defend new constitution, Brussels must treat equally
* Tens of thousands protest against govt at separate rally in Budapest
By Marton Dunai
BUDAPEST, March 15 (Reuters) - Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban hit back at Brussels on Thursday for criticising his fiscal policies, telling tens of thousands of supporters at a rally that they would not be treated as second-class European citizens.
Orban's conservative government is locked in a row with the European Union over legislation that Brussels says hurts the independence of the central bank and judiciary, which has so far blocked talks on a financing deal with the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
In a fiery speech on the anniversary of the country's 1848 revolution against Habsburg rule, Orban told a crowd estimated by local news agency MTI at 250,000 that Hungary deserved to be treated equally with other EU members.
"The programme and the desire of Hungarians in 2012 goes like this: we will not be a colony," said Orban, drawing a parallel with the 1848 freedom fight.
"As a European nation we demand equal treatment. We will not be second class European citizens. Our rightful demand is to have the same standards apply to us, which apply to other countries."
Analysts say the EU has been more harsh with Budapest to make it an example after Orban ignored warnings from Brussels and used his two-thirds majority in parliament to pass Europe's highest banking tax, a new central bank law, and other policies criticized as ineffective and potentially undemocratic.
Increasing pressure on Orban's government, EU finance ministers suspended Hungary's planned access to half a billion euros in development funds on Tuesday for failure to keep its budget in check.
Orban's Fidesz party swept to power in 2010 and has since rewritten over 300 laws and the country's constitution in ways which critics said weakened democratic checks and balances in the former communist state.
Hungary, the most heavily indebted nation in central Europe, needs the IMF loan to cut its borrowing costs.
Opposition parties say Fidesz has used its strong mandate to cement its powers well beyond the end of its current term in government. The next elections are due in 2014.
Orban said European bureaucrats were looking at Hungary "with distrust" because the country chose new ways in its policies in order to cut state debt.
"We are more than familiar with the character of unsolicited comradely assistance, even if it comes wearing a finely tailored suit and not a uniform with shoulder patches," he said.
"We want Hungary to revolve around its own axis, therefore we are going to protect the constitution."
Orban's government has taken unorthodox measures, including big windfall taxes on banks and a nationalisation of private pension funds, to keep the budget deficit in check. This has hurt foreign banks, mostly from Austria and Germany, and some foreign companies.
But many Hungarians feel the criticism from the EU, which Hungary joined in 2004, is unfair.
"We strengthen our government and stick by them in this freedom fight," said Mihaly Varga, 56, an architect. "Europe has singled out Hungary in an unjust manner and many of us are upset about this."
However, Fidesz' public support has dropped sharply since its election victory in 2010, even though its political opposition remains weak and fragmented.
In another part of Budapest, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the government at a protest organised by grassroots civil organisations and student groups.
"If we choose to stay (in the EU) then we need to resolve our problems based on the club's rules," said Levente Halasz, one of the protesters.
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