Hungary’s Orban Seeks to Defuse Row With EU Over Death Penalty

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban tried to defuse a conflict with the European Union over his comments on the death penalty, saying he only wants to have a debate and isn’t planning to introduce it.

Orban assured European Parliament President Martin Schultz in a phone call that Hungary doesn’t intend to bring back executions, Janos Lazar, the minister in charge of Orban’s office, said according to state-run news service MTI.

Hungary should “keep the death penalty on the agenda’’ as life sentences and a “three-strikes” rule were proving to be insufficient deterrents, Orban said on Tuesday, in reaction to the murder of a tobacco shop saleswoman. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday that Orban would have a “fight” on his hands if he tried to introduce capital punishment in violation of EU rules.

The dispute added to other comments from the Hungarian premier that critics said ran counter to the values of the now 28-member bloc, which Hungary joined in 2004. Orban said last year he envisaged building an “illiberal state,” citing Russia and Turkey among examples, and said non-government organizations receiving funding from abroad should be considered “foreign agents.”

Orban is trying to stem the momentum of a surging radical nationalist party, Jobbik, which further narrowed the ruling party’s lead in April, according to a Tarki poll published on Wednesday. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for

2018.

Lazar, the most powerful minister in Orban’s cabinet, said on Thursday he supported the death penalty.

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