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Clinton raises concerns over Hungarian democracy

During her recent visit in Hungary, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised concerns over the Hungarian government’s legislative measures that critics claim limit press freedom and reduce powers of previously independent institutions, reports the Voice of America.

“As friends of Hungary we expressed our concerns, and particular call for a real commitment to the independence of the judiciary a free press and governmental transparency," said Secretary Clinton, appealing to Orbán’s government not to remove checks and balances in government which she said was essential to any democracy.

Clinton’s words came after a group of Hungarian intellectuals had urged her to address the issue of Hungary's "autocratic system" during her visit in Hungary. Clinton acknowledged that she expressed concerns about Hungary's new media law and constitution in talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Orbán, in response, reassured his commitment to democracy and said that Hungarian legislation is in line with laws introduced in other EU countries.

Clinton also urged emerging democracies from Hungary to Latin America to Asia to help Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries in transition, said the Voice of America. She used her visit to Budapest to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. According to her, the Obama administration is talking with the controversial group to help build ties and promote democratic principles, actions which raise criticism from Israel and others concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We believe, given the changing political landscape in Egypt, that it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to non-violence," said Clinton. "That intends to compete for the parliament and the presidency and we welcome therefore duologue with those Muslim Brotherhood members who wish to talk with us.”

Clinton was in Budapest to participate in the inauguration of the Tom Lantos Institute dedicated to human rights, named after the late Hungarian-born US Congressman. Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi said he hopes the Tom Lantos Institute will help to ease tensions in Central and Eastern Europe where the wounds of a violent history have not yet healed completely.

“Further regional cooperation, historical reconciliation and tolerance in Central and South-Eastern Europe are something we very desperately need in our context where old and fresh historical trauma's influence our life on a daily basis. If the institute shall be able to contribute [to] this high aim of further reconciliation in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe it will be a true heir of the Tom Lantos legacy," said Martonyi.

Clinton's next destination is Lithuania, where she will attend a meeting of the Community of Democracies to discuss ways to advance women in politics and business as well as to urge countries to support pro-democracy activists in Belarus, which has been described by Washington as Europe's last dictatorship.  She then travels to Spain to meet President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and other government officials.