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Merkel questions Orbán's term 'illiberal democracy'

In a joint press conference following her meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest today, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said she could not understand the use of the word "illiberal" in connection with the word "democracy" – a reference to a speech Orbán made in July.

Also at the press conference, the two leaders said they had agreed during their meeting that the Ukraine crisis needs to be solved with diplomacy, and that the European Union should not be sending weapons to Ukraine. Another area where they said they agreed with one another is on the idea of fostering energy cooperation in the EU, to reduce energy dependence on Russia.

Merkel's comments on "illiberal democracy" came in response to a question about the term that Orbán first used during an address in July, when he said he was not convinced of the value of liberal democracy just because many Europeans seem to favor the concept.

After being widely criticized, Orbán said in December: ‘‘Hungarians welcomed illiberal democracy; the fact that in English it means something else is not my problem.” Orbán also said, "It’s not true that a democracy can only be liberal. There’s democracy in Hungary – period – it doesn’t need any modifiers."

In her remarks today, Merkel seemed to suggest that she was not satisfied with that explanation, and added that she wishes to "deepen talks" on the matter of democracy with Orbán.