Germany tells Hungary's president of democracy worries

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2013 9:44 AM
Germany tells Hungary's president of democracy worries

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany voiced concerns about Hungarian democracy during a visit to Berlin by the country's president on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Viktor Orban thrust disputed laws through the Budapest parliament.

President Janos Ader is a close ally of Orban, whose decision to limit the powers of Hungary's Constitutional Court has drawn strong criticism from the European Union, the United States and human rights groups.

"(Angela Merkel) made the case once again for the responsible use of the two-thirds majority that the Hungarian government has in parliament," a spokesman for the German chancellor said after her talks with Ader.

"The concerns of Hungary's European partners and friends, for example over the restricting of the Constitutional Court's competencies, must be taken seriously," he said.

Merkel, whose Christian Democrats are in the same center-right grouping as Orban's Fidesz party in the European Parliament, has been under pressure from German opposition parties to take a firm stance in her dealings with Orban.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was even more critical during his meeting with the Hungarian president.

"There was a frank and at times quite contentious exchange of views (on the constitutional issue)," a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said. On Monday in Brussels, Westerwelle said the independence of constitutional courts was an important value shared by EU member states.

Orban, who has angered investors and ignored EU warnings that he is undermining democracy, said on Tuesday there were too many foreign-owned lenders in Hungary and pledged to free Hungarian firms from foreign currency loans.

Ader is a largely ceremonial head of state with little political power but he is a long-standing member of Orban's party, whose support propelled him into the presidency last May.

The latest changes in Hungary have revived suspicions among Orban's opponents and foreign states that he is eroding the state's checks and balances so he can rule without challenge.

Orban's government says it has the right to use its two-thirds majority in parliament to overhaul a constitution that it calls a hangover from the communist era.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke and Thorsten Severin, writing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)