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January 31, 2023
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Orban ‘ready to negotiate’ after EU launches legal action

The European Commission opened infringement procedures against Hungary over reforms to its central bank, data protection and judiciary.

STRASBOURG – Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban was to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday- a day after the EU launched legal proceedings against his government, according to the BBC.

The government said it would review new laws on the central bank, the judiciary and data protection authority in light of the EU Commission’s concerns. The Commission says the new Hungarian constitution puts the independence of those bodies at risk.

Left-of-centre MEPs have sharply criticised Orban, a conservative.

Hungarian ministers have indicated a willingness to amend the controversial laws but that is unlikely to be enough to appease the critical members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who believe Hungary’s hard-won freedoms are being undermined. Orban has been given a month to make changes to the controversial laws. Failure to do so would be grounds for the Commission to levy fines or take Hungary to the European Court of Justice.

In an interview to daily Bild earlier on Wednesday, Orban said his government was willing to compromise on the central bank law Spiegel Online reported. “We are open and ready to negotiate all problems which are raised by the European Commission, on the basis of serious arguments,” he said. “In this case we will bow to power, not to arguments.”

Addressing criticism of his constitutional reforms, Orban said, “I would recommend that those people who claim we don’t want democracy take a look at our constitution. Hungary is and remains democratic and a country of freedom fighters. We stand by our values and our nation, even when the wind is against us. And even if that wind reaches hurricane force.”

Media commentators in Germany, however, say that Orban has abused his two-thirds parliamentary majority to cement his party’s hold on power, thereby damaging democratic freedoms and institutions. They accused him of leading his country to the verge of financial and democratic bankruptcy, Spiegel Online also said.

The European Commission opened legal proceedings against Hungary over reforms to its central bank, data protection and judiciary. Critics say the new central bank law puts the bank’s independence at risk. It allows Mr Orban to install a new deputy governor.

The Commission launched an “infringement procedure” on Tuesday, the first stage of which is a warning calling for changes to the controversial laws. “We do not want a shadow of doubt on respect for democratic principles and values to remain over the country any longer,” Com­mission President Jose Manuel Barroso said. Orban is scheduled to travel to Brussels and meet with Barroso on Tuesday, according to website politics.hu.

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