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Europe
EU takes legal action against Hungary
European Commission launches challenge against government, saying new reform laws fail to comply with EU legislation.
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2012 18:13
 Tens of thousands of people protested against the new constitution earlier this month [AFP]

The European Union's executive body says it will take legal action against the Hungarian government for failing to make disputed reform laws comply with EU legislation.

The European Commission said on Tuesday that the new laws undermine the independence of the national central bank and judiciary and does not respect data privacy principles.

It said it had found enough evidence to start legal proceedings, which may end up in a court case later this year.

"We do not want the shadow of doubt on respect for democratic principles and values to remain over the country any longer. The quicker that this is resolved the better,'' Jose Manuel Barroso, the EU Commission president, said in Strasbourg, France.

The international community has criticised Viktor Orban's conservative Fidesz party for introducing measures that threaten the independence of the media, the judiciary and the central bank since sweeping to power in 2010.

His party pushed the law through parliament last year, and it came into effect on January 1.

'Sound legal analysis'

Barroso said the decision to send letters of warning to Orban's government followed "a sound legal analysis" by commission officials of amendments to the constitution.


Adam Lebor of the Economist magazine analyses Hungary's situation [Al Jazeera]

"We hoped that the Hungarian authorities would make the changes necessary to guarantee respect of EU law. This has not been the case so far, therefore we  have decided to begin infringement proceedings," he said.

In an initial reaction to the challenges, the Hungarian government struck a conciliatory tone.

"There is no disagreement with the institutions of the European Union on the importance of basic principles, common European values and achievements,"' it said in a statement.

Anger over the legislation sent tens of thousands of Hungarians on to the streets in protest earlier this month, while causing the suspension of talks with the EU and IMF to secure a credit line of up to 20bn euros ($25bn) for the cash-strapped nation.

The Commission and the European Central Bank had been in touch with Hungarian authorities since mid-December, expressing doubts over aspects of the new legislation.

In addition to a central bank law, which gives the government a much larger role than before in naming top bank officials, the EU has objected to the forced, early retirement of hundreds of judges and has expressed concerns about the independence of a new data protection authority.

If Hungary ignores requests for changes, the Commission can take it to the European Court of Justice and levy fines.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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