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Hungary PM calls for resignation of EU Commissioner over ‘derogatory’ remarks

File Photo: People Take Part In A Protest For Media Freedom In Budapest
FILE PHOTO: People march during a protest for media freedom after the editor-in-chief of Index, Hungary's leading independent news website was fired, in Budapest, Hungary, July 24, 2020. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called for the resignation of European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova over what he described as her “derogatory public statements” about democracy in Hungary.

Orban, 57, has repeatedly clashed with other EU leaders over his moves to put the judiciary, media and academics under more state control.

Critics in the European Union say he defends the rights of nation states and ethnic majorities at the expense of the generally accepted rules of civic behaviour. Orban rejected those accusations in an interview with Reuters last week.

“According to the Vice President, in Hungary a ‘sick democracy’ is being built,” Orban wrote in a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen published on Tuesday.

Reuters could not immediately verify Jourova’s comments cited by Orban.

Orban’s call for the ouster of Jourova, in charge of the Commission’s work on values and transparency and upholding the rule of law, comes as Hungary is headed for a slower-than-expected recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Orban has repeatedly used rousing speeches in the past to portray himself as a defender of Hungary’s national pride and sovereignty against foreign encroachment, including attacks from “Brussels bureaucrats”.

The Hungarian economy shrank by 13.6% in the second quarter, the worst downturn in central Europe, 2020 inflation is seen at an eight-year-high and the forint is central Europe’s worst-performing currency.

Hungary’s weakened prospects could represent the biggest threat to Orban’s decade-long rule as he prepares to face parliamentary elections in the first half of 2022.

Germany, current president of the European Union, has proposed a scheme that links access to EU money, including the 750 billion euro recovery fund, to respecting the rule of law.

Hungary and Poland are under EU investigation for undermining the independence of the judiciary, media and non-governmental organisations.

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