Merkel calls for Hungary to protect civil rights

Chancellor Angela Merkel used a visit to Budapest on Monday to challenge right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to end his crackdown on domestic dissenters and join other European nations in facing the Ukraine crisis.

“Even when someone has a very broad majority, like the Hungarian Prime Minister, it's very important to value the role of the opposition, the role of civil society and the role of the media in a democracy,” Merkel said at a press conference.

Responding to Orban's wish to build an “illiberal democracy” in his country, Merkel said that “I personally can't put the expression illiberal together with democracy”.

Orban, whose Fidesz party enjoys a two-thirds majority in Hungary's parliament, retorted that “not every democracy is necessarily liberal”.

Reporters without Borders have accused Hungary's Fidesz government of massively extending state control of the media.

Meanwhile, police forbade pro-democracy demonstrators from assembling outside the German-speaking Andrassy University in the capital at the time of the Chancellor's visit.

Beyond civil society issues, the two leaders found little to disagree on, spending much of the press conference discussing peace initiatives in neighbouring Ukraine and German-Hungarian links.

“We in Hungary can only stand on the side of peace”, Orban said, while Merkel guaranteed that Germany would never send weapons into the conflict zone after high-ranking US officials reportedly suggested arming the Kiev government.

Orban praised Merkel's work to keep the Eurozone together through times of economic crisis and emphasised the level of German investment in his country, saying “thank you Germany.”