Hungarian far right deputy burns EU flag
BUDAPEST /BUCHAREST- Reuters
Hungarian member for parliament of the right-wing ‘Jobbik’ party, Elod Novak, sets an European Union flag on fire during a demonstration in Budapest on Jan 14. AFP photoThousands protested against the EU on Jan. 14 at a rally of the far-right Jobbik party, calling for Hungary’s exit from the bloc and adding pressure on the government which is seeking a funding deal with the EU and IMF to avert insolvency.
Two members of parliament of Jobbik, the second biggest opposition party in Hungarian parliament, set an European Union flag on fire at the protest in front of the European Commission offices in Budapest.
“This week the EU declared war on Hungary in a very harsh and open way,” Csanad Szegedi, a Jobbik member of European Parliament told the crowd of around 2,000 demonstrators.
After talks with lenders were derailed last month over a set of disputed laws, a plunging forint currency and spiking bond yields forced Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative government to back down and try to seek a fast agreement.
Orban is now reluctantly trying to make amends to lenders in order to secure a funding deal, which Hungary needs to be able to finance its debts from markets at a time when its economy is heading for a possible recession this year.
The EU has piled pressure on the government to change controversial legislation on its central bank and judiciary, and even raised the prospect of suspending vital EU funds to the economy if Orban does not make budget deficit cuts sustainable.
Orban also came under pressure from the U.S. which voiced concerns over democratic freedoms, after his Fidesz party pushed ahead to pass measures which critics say weaken public institutions such as the top court, and cement Fidesz’ powers. Many supporters of nationalist Jobbik believe the government should not bow to international pressure.
Romanians hit streets
On the same day with Hungarian protests, thousands of Romanians staged a third straight day of protests in the capital Bucharest and other cities, as anger over a healthcare reform bill widened into protest against government austerity measures.
The government pulled its draft healthcare reform bill on Jan. 13 after street protests and criticism, but that has failed to assuage the anger of crowds, who called on Saturday for early elections and the resignation of President Traian Basescu.
Protesters chanted and carried banners that said “Stop thievery”, “You lied to us and robbed us” and “Leave and let us be”. Some scuffled with riot police in the capital.
“It is important for protesters to understand that we are not against them, we are here to protect them and ... make sure the law is respected,” said Georgian Enache, spokesman for Bucharest riot police, who added he didn’t have estimates as to how many protesters had gathered in downtown Bucharest.