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Written EU warning to Hungary

April 12, 2013

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has written a letter warning Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Oban that Brussels might still object to the country's new constitution, which has already been revised once.

File photo: In 2011, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) smile during a joint session of the Hungarian government and the European Commission in the Parliament building in Budapest, Hungary, on January 7, 2011. (Photo via dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The president of the European Commission said in his letter than an initial legal analysis of the changes for Hungary's new constitution still pointed to incompatibilities with EU law.

Once the legal investigations were complete, Jose Manuel Barroso wrote, then the European Commission "will have to take the necessary steps in order to start infringement procedures where relevant."

"I strongly appeal to you and to your government to address these concerns and to tackle them in a determined and unambiguous way," Barroso said in his letter. "This is without doubts in the best interest of Hungary and of the EU as a whole.

Prime Minister Orban's Fidesz party enjoys a two-thirds majority in the lower house of parliament and therefore broad legislative power. Orban began seeking changes to Hungary's constitution since 2010, shortly after his party's landslide victory in parliamentary elections in April of that year. Critics say that the changes would undermine press freedom, the power of the country's legal system and the independence of the Hungarian Central Bank.

The most recent changes to the constitution, passed last month despite an EU request to delay the vote to permit further analysis, include a ban on party political advertisements on private radio and television, as well as tough new laws making it possible to fine or jail the homeless for living on the street.

Orban has said in the past that the EU's criticisms of the constitution were vague an lacked concrete evidence.

The issue will be debated at Strasbourg's European Parliament next Wednesday, though Orban is expected instead to attend the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

msh/jr (AFP, AP, dpa)