PM Orban calls for autonomy for ethnic Hungarians beyond borders

BUDAPEST Sat May 10, 2014 12:35pm EDT

People look on as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his speech in front of the Hungarian Parliament, after taking his oath of office, in Budapest, May 10, 2014. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

People look on as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his speech in front of the Hungarian Parliament, after taking his oath of office, in Budapest, May 10, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Bernadett Szabo

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will stand up for its rights within the European Union and wants autonomy for ethnic Hungarians living beyond its borders in central Europe, including Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday.

Orban, who was formally endorsed by parliament as prime minister for a second consecutive term after last month's landslide election win, said ethnic Hungarians supported his policies to unite the nation "above the borders".

His previous government granted ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries citizenship shortly after it took office in 2010, as part of his efforts to restore a battered sense of national pride.

Orban, a 50-year-old former dissident against Communist rule, has also clashed repeatedly with the European Union over his go-it-alone policies in the past four years.

"We regard the Hungarian issue a European issue," Orban said in his first speech to parliament since his reelection.

"Hungarians living in the Carpathian basin are entitled to have dual citizenship, are entitled to community rights, and also autonomy."

Many Hungarians today view the 1920 Treaty of Trianon as a national tragedy because it took away two-thirds of the country's territory and left millions of ethnic Hungarians living in what are now Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia.

Orban has won popularity at home by reaching out to Hungarians outside the country's borders who were allowed to vote in the national election for the first time in April.

He has never suggested reuniting the lost territories with Hungary, but his activities have irked governments in some neighboring countries.

He said on Saturday the issue of ethnic Hungarians was especially topical due to the situation in neighboring Ukraine, where around 200,000 ethnic Hungarians live, who are entitled to Hungarian citizenship and also the right to self-administration.

"This is our clear expectation from the new Ukraine which is taking shape now," Orban said, adding the new administration enjoyed Hungary's support in its efforts to build a democratic Ukraine.

BRAVE THINKING

Orban pledged to continue the policies of his previous government and said these would be based on "open dialogue and brave thinking" when it comes to European affairs.

He said Hungary was and remained, beyond doubt, part of NATO and also the EU and his government regarded any program that called for an exit from the EU a dangerous extremity.

"But we are members of these alliances and not hostages," he said. "We want a Europe that respects its own roots, respects Christianity and also gives due respect to individual nations."

His words echoed his ruling Fidesz party's campaign ahead of European parliament elections later this month, with billboards featuring Orban's photo and saying: "Our message to Brussels: More respect to Hungarians."

Orban called for a radical cut in energy prices in the EU to improve competitiveness and said his government rejected policies that support immigration.

"We do not want policies that support immigration and masses of immigrants who cause unmanageable tensions, but we want support for families to have more children," he added.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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