German Chancellor Angela Merkel has visited the Hungarian capital Budapest to receive an honorary doctorate from the city’s German-language university.
But it was also to make a point two weeks ahead of a much-criticised visit by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“We think that not every democracy is necessarily liberal, and if someone says that democracy has to be liberal, that means for us that one ideology is being favoured above all – a privilege, we can’t accord,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Orban has said Russia, China and Singapore are “non-liberal democratic models” he would like Hungary to emulate.
“Our party, the party where I come from, the Christian-Democratic Union has three roots: Christian-social, Liberal and Conservative. That’s why we are the people’s party. So, for me the word “illiberal” has nothing to do with democracy,” countered Merkel.
EU members are being dissuaded from bilateral events with Putin, but Orban is determined to steer his own course, despite rising domestic opposition.
“Long after her departure this square was still full of protesters supporting of Angela Merkel’s visit. They applauded the German Chancellor for standing firmly for European democratic values,” said euronews’ Andrea Hajagos.
Protests against what critics say is Orban’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies continued on Monday night in front of the university where Merkel was awarded her honorary doctorate.
Many Hungarians want their EU partners to put more pressure on Orban for tinkering with, for example, laws governing press freedoms.
Orban is also making many nervous with an agressive nationality campaign for people with Hungarian roots living abroad, granting them citizenship.