The European Union has launched legal proceedings against Hungary over controversial reforms to the judiciary, banking sector and data protection authority which it says contravene EU law.
The EU executive on Tuesday announced that it was taking Hungary to court over three contested constitutional reforms which it argues violate European Union law.
"We have just decided to launch infringement proceedings against Hungary on three points," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The European Commission is set to issue three letters of warning to Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government, demanding that it scrap the three reforms or face legal action.
The EU views the recently passed Hungarian legislation as threatening the independence of the country's central bank, as well as the judicial system and its data protection authority.
"We will use all our powers to make sure that Hungary complies with the rules of the EU," Barroso added.
Pressure piled on government
Public anger over the legislation sent tens of thousands of Hungarians onto the streets in protest earlier this month. The new laws also provoked the suspension of talks with the EU and International Monetary Fund to secure a credit line for some 20 billion euros ($25 billion) for the cash-strapped nation.
Tuesday's EU ultimatum is the first step in a legal process that could eventually see Hungary dragged before the European Court of Justice for violating fundamental democratic rights.
Standard procedure is to give a member state two months to rewrite contested legislation, but in Hungary's case that period may only be 14 days, an EU official said.
Prime Minister Orban is due to defend his government during a debate in the European parliament on Wednesday.
"We will not allow the international left to accuse Hungary with lies and unfounded slander," Orban's spokesman Peter Szijjarto said in a statement.
Orban said he was ready to meet some of the criticisms from the IMF and EU.
"Concerning points made over the new law on the central bank, the Hungarian government agrees with some of them and I see no obstacle in adopting them. However, there are other points where our positions are still far apart," Orban said.
Author: Gregg Benzow (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Michael Lawton