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Co-chair of U.S. Helsinki Commission plays down criticism against Hungary

Remarks criticising the Hungarian government in terms of the state of democracy and human rights are unfair and involve double standards, Republican member of the US Congress Christopher H. Smith said on Thursday. Smith, who is co-chairman of the US Helsinki Commission, said in a written statement to a hearing of the commission on Hungary, said that in Hungary “the system of constitutional checks and balances is alive and well”. Smith wrote he had studied written material from both the Hungarian government and its critiques including civil organisations and the governments of other countries, and found that “the Orbán government is right when it says that many of the criticisms are unfair, involving double standards, misrepresentation, and inaccurate information. The Hungarian government has carefully documented this, for example in its “Open letter to Freedom House”. Smith referred to an earlier hearing on anti-Semitism in Hungary, and said that he had been impressed by the “long list of significant actions” the government had taken to fight such expressions. “The Orbán government is on a clear upward trajectory here, and gives every sign that it will continue to be part of the solution rather than the problem,” he wrote. The politician also referred to his government’s earlier criticism of Hungary for a “lack of serious consultation with different sectors of society” and said that such critism should involve more humbleness for a country “where a democratic party with an unprecedented supermajority and a mandate for a dramatic change, gained in a free and fair election, passed a democratic constitution and shows itself open to working with others to amend and improve the flaws in its new laws”. “This is a conversation between equals, and there is a lot we can learn from Hungary,” Smith said, and mentioned the constitutional cap on the public debt and protection for life in the womb as examples. At the hearing, Hungarian MEP József Szájer defended Hungary’s process in drawing up and endorsing the country’s new constitution, in his testimony.