Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has called for the resignation of European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova over what he described as her "derogatory public statements" about democracy in Hungary.
In a letter addressed to the commission's president, Ursula von der Leyen, Orban wrote that Jourova's statements were "incompatible with her current mandate, therefore her resignation is indispensable."
Until she resigns, "the Hungarian government suspends all bilateral political contacts with her," he added in the letter, which was made public on September 29.
In an interview with a German news magazine last week, Jourova said that "Orban likes to say he is building an illiberal democracy. I would say he is building an ill democracy."
"There is hardly any criticism of the government in Hungarian media anymore, so a wide majority of Hungarians are possibly no longer in a position to form a free opinion. I fear that people in Hungary could one day discover that their last election was also their last free election," she told Der Spiegel.
The interview came just days before Jourova presents a report on the state of the rule of law in all EU member states. Orban's government is expected to be criticized sharply in the report, which will be released on September 30.
Orban said the remarks were "in contradiction with the commission's role as a neutral and objective institution" and "prevent any meaningful future dialogue" between Hungary and Jourova.
A spokeswoman for the EU's executive in Brussels said Von der Leyen had "full trust" in her deputy in charge of the commission's work on values and transparency and upholding the rule of law.
"Our concerns when it comes to the rule of law in Hungary are well-known. They will be addressed in our rule-of-law report, which we will present tomorrow. In this report, we assesses the situation in all member states," Dana Spinant told a news briefing.
Right-wing nationalist Orban has repeatedly clashed with EU leaders over his moves to increase state control of the judiciary, media, and academia.
A so-called Article 7 procedure against Hungary to probe whether it is undermining European legal standards and democratic values is ongoing.