Freedom House: Hungary, Ukraine in Democratic Decline

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 12:45 am (UTC-5)
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A U.S.-based non-governmental organization advocating for democracy and human rights says Hungary and Ukraine are at the forefront of an antidemocratic trend in Central and Eastern Europe.

In a report issued Wednesday, Freedom House warns that negative developments in Hungary and Ukraine raise serious questions about the durability of the European Union's young democracies, as well as its prospective members.

Hungary is a member of the 27-nation bloc, while Ukraine has expressed interest in closer ties with western Europe.

The report is especially critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. It says the two have been systematically breaking down critical checks and balances under the pretext of reforms.

The Hungarian government has already been criticized by EU members and rights groups for a controversial media law enacted last year that is seen as curbing journalists' freedom.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her concerns in a letter to Mr. Orban in December about the future of democratic institutions in the former communist nation. During a visit to Hungary she also warned that checks and balances must be strengthened.

Freedom House says Ukraine had seen a brief democratic opening after the 2004 Orange revolution, but has since suffered a significant decline in an alarmingly short period of time.

Political leaders and rights groups have accused President Yanukovych of mistreating a political rival, Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently jailed for alleged abuse of office.

The Freedom House report says eastern European EU members Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia have also seen declines in democratic reforms over the past five years.