Hungary's Orban accuses Europe of 'Soviet-style' meddling

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary accused the European Parliament on Friday of resorting to Soviet-style methods that challenged the country’s sovereignty by passing a resolution deploring recent changes to the constitution.

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends a debate on the situation of fundamental rights in Hungary at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, July 2, 2013. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The European Parliament told Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday he risked isolating Hungary in Europe unless he repealed the “anti-democratic” changes, the latest in a series of spats between Budapest and Brussels which fears EU member Hungary is drifting back to authoritarianism.

“Since the rule of Soviet empire, no other external power has dared to try to curb the sovereignty of Hungarians openly, choosing a legal form,” Orban told public radio, saying some of the European Parliament’s recommendations violated the EU treaty.

European lawmakers say Orban, who has used his two-thirds majority to enact hundreds of laws since sweeping to power in 2010, has weakened democratic checks and balances in the former Soviet satellite by changing the constitution.

Orban has denied the charges.

Hungary’s parliament, with support from Orban’s party and far-right Jobbik, passed a resolution on Friday saying the European Parliament was going against European values. It demanded “respect and equal treatment” for Hungary.

“We don’t want to live in a European empire that has its center in Brussels and where they tell us what we should do on the peripheries,” Orban said on the radio.

He said the “troops of bureaucrats” who had failed to resolve the economic crisis in Europe were now trying to condemn Hungary, which was on the road to recovery.

Orban said he expected further conflicts with Brussels because Hungary was under attack from leftist political opponents who felt his government’s new big bank tax and energy price cuts hurt foreign business.

His government has introduced a series of populist budget policies, including the tax on banks and other selected business sectors. It has also forced the mostly foreign-owned utility firms to cut gas and electricity prices for households, which could win Orban more votes in elections next year.

His party has a comfortable lead in opinion polls over the leftist opposition but close to half of voters are undecided.

His anti-EU rhetoric could help strengthen his core support, said Peter Kreko, an analyst at think tank Political Capital.

“This is good for Orban domestically as, when in war, the general cannot be attacked,” Kreko said.

“This works in his favor in the short term, but could have a serious price in the medium term due to a fall in investments and diplomatic isolation.”

Reporting by Krisztina Than, editing by Elizabeth Piper