January 22, 2016 / 10:27 AM / 2 years ago

Hungary's PM defends Poland after EU censure of government tightening grip

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban defended Poland on Friday after the European Union criticised the Polish government for tightening its grip on the justice system and the media, saying Brussels was “irritated” by strong nations.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers a speech during a Conference on demography and families in Budapest, Hungary, November 5,2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

The EU has asked Warsaw to explain new laws that boost government control over the top constitutional court and state media. Warsaw insists it has not breached European or Polish laws and says it has a strong political mandate for the changes.

“I think the Poles have not done anything that should trigger European criticism ... they have not trespassed any thresholds that would underpin unjustified steps from ... rather self-assured (Western) democracies,” Orban told public radio.

The bloc’s concern over Poland echo those about Hungary after Orban took power in 2010 and used his supermajority in parliament to boost his right-wing government’s control over independent institutions.

“Brussels is simply irritated if there are strong nation states which speak clearly and in a straightforward way ... and which say that certain issues must be resolved in Warsaw and Budapest, and not in Brussels,” Orban said.

“This automatically triggers Pavlovian negative reflexes in European bureaucrats and then they jump at the country which dares to speak a clear language ... and makes its goals clear.”

Referring to the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve that have been blamed on migrants and went unreported by German media for days, he said: “Imagine if the Hungarian government managed to achieve that neither the state-run nor the private part of Hungarian media would report on ... such a mass atrocity like the one in Cologne for days.”

“So I think ... Westerners have no moral or factual ground whatsoever to hold us accountable for democratic criteria.”

Orban, who has gained public support with his tough stance on migration, also reiterated his firm stance on barring migrants, except those seeking political asylum, from Hungary.

His government has put up fences on the country’s southern borders to keep out hundreds of thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East.

Hungary’s foreign minister told Reuters that Hungary was ready to build a fence on its border with Romania “the next day” if migrants switch to that route.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Louise Ireland

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