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Clinton praises Hungary’s economic reforms but expresses concerns about democratic values

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday praised the economic reforms undertaken by the Hungarian government while expressing Washington’s concern for what critics say are setbacks here for an independent judiciary, press freedoms and other civil issues.

Clinton said she had received assurances from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that Hungary would remain true to its “democratic traditions.”

“As friends of Hungary, we expressed our concerns and particularly call for a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary, a free press and governmental transparency,” Clinton said at a joint news conference. “We also talked very openly about preserving the democratic institutions of Hungary and making sure that they continue to grow and strengthen, including providing essential checks and balances.”

At the same time, Clinton praised Hungary’s “outstanding” contributions to the war in Afghanistan, where Orbán said nearly 500 Hungarians were now serving, and lauded Hungary’s efforts, both domestically and as the holder until Thursday of the six-month, rotating presidency of the European Union, to improve the situation of the Roma population.

Earlier, Clinton and Orban spoke at the opening ceremony of the Tom Lantos Institute, named after the late Hungarian-born U.S. congressman.

During the ceremony, Orbán said Hungary and the United States shared common values, such as their mutual “passionate attraction” to freedom.

Orbán said that while Washington has been able to advance economically, culturally and socially thanks to its freedoms, Hungary’s underdevelopment was a consequence of the lack of freedom it had to endure in decades past.

Orbán also warned about the far-reaching effects of economic turmoil.

“Indebtedness, whether of households or entire countries, clearly limits freedoms,” he said. He borrowed the words of President John Adams, who said there are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation — by the sword and by debt.