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'Brussels is not Moscow'

February 15, 2011

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has hit out at foreign critics of a contentious media law in an address to parliament. Orban, whose country holds the EU presidency, vented some of his anger at Brussels.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban
Orban hit out against Brussels in his addressImage: AP

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted Monday that his government had defeated foreign critics of a controversial media law, vowing that the country would not be dictated to by the European Union as it had been by the Soviet Union.

Orban claimed an address to Parliament at the beginning of its spring session that his regime had won the argument.

"The government has beaten back this attack," he said. "We do not accept any countries or country groupings as our superiors. Brussels is not Moscow," added Orban, alluding to orders from the Soviet Union to Budapest during the Communist era.

Orban, who was addressing Parliament at the beginning of its spring session, said criticism of the media law was nothing short of an attack on Hungary, whose country assumed the six-month presidency of the EU in January.

French European parliament member Jean-Paul Besset protests against Hungarian media law with a poster saying "Magyar Nemzet Censored"
Hungary's media law has drawn fierce criticism from BrusselsImage: AP

"Hungary has been attacked under the disguise of the media law," he said. "Hungarians' democratic commitment has been questioned, the respect due to Hungary and Hungarians has been violated."

Although Hungary has agreed to make some changes to the law in response to pressure from the EU, the government insists these are of a technical nature and that the law is fundamentally right. Orban said it had shown the attacks to be "laughable."

Heavy fines for infringement

The media law gives powers to a new body, the National Media and Communications Authority, which is controlled by Orban's ruling right-wing Fidesz party. These include the right to fine media organizations it finds uncooperative or in violation of the law.

In his address, Orban also pointed out that national debt and unemployment were the main challenges that faced his government.

Hungary looks set to meet a deficit target of 2.8 percent this year, thanks partly to a temporary "crisis tax" on banks and large businesses and a transfer of private pension savings into the state sector.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nicole Goebel