EU prepares warning for Hungary over new laws

17.01.2012 18:01

LONDON. January 17. KAZINFORM The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - is expected to issue a warning to Hungary over controversial reforms to its central bank, data protection and judiciary.

PM Viktor Orban may face a deadline to reverse some of the changes, BBC News reports.

Critics say the new central bank law puts the bank's independence at risk. It allows Mr Orban to install a new deputy governor.

His conservative Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority in parliament.

There are fears that a new data protection authority will come under Fidesz influence and that a plan to make hundreds of judges retire early will undermine the judiciary's independence.

Thousands of Hungarians have demonstrated over what they see as Fidesz authoritarianism. A new media authority set up by Fidesz is also highly controversial.

The changes are part of a new constitution which took effect on 1 January.

Mr Orban says the criticisms are politically motivated. He argues that partisan bickering has for too long handicapped Hungarian politics and that the last vestiges of communist influence need to be rooted out.

Correspondents say a compromise may be found because Hungary is struggling to service its debts and wants to reach a new deal with the EU and International Monetary Fund on a standby loan.

Hungary's total debt has risen to 82% of its output, while its currency, the forint, has fallen to record lows against the euro.

The EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Olli Rehn, has already warned that Hungary could face a suspension of EU cohesion funds - support for regional projects.

The Commission has the power to launch infringement proceedings against Hungary, which can go as far as fines and a case in the European Court of Justice.

Nearly a year ago a row between Hungary and the Commission was defused when Mr Orban's government agreed to amend the wording of the new media law, in the sections on balanced reporting, country of origin and media registration.

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