EU reiterates 'concern' over Hungary's reforms
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
A guard stands outside Hungary's parliament in Budapest on January 4, 2012. REUTERSThe EU executive Wednesday reiterated its continuing "concern" over Hungary's controversial constitutional reforms and warned of legal action should the new laws not comply with EU treaties.
"Our concerns remain and will remain until the (European) Commission has completed its legal assessment of these new laws" adopted by the Budapest parliament last week, Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly told a news conference.
Legal experts in the Commission were poring over official translations of Hungary's controversial constitutional reform bills to see if the legislation was compatible both with EU law as well as basic EU values, he said.
Once the analysis is over, the Commission "will decide on the next step," he added.
After tens of thousands of Hungarians poured into the street to protest Prime Minister Viktor Orban's reforms, Brussels has been under pressure to determine whether the new constitution, as its detractors say, undermines vital checks and balances on the power of the centre-right government.
Adopted thanks to a two-thirds parliamentary majority enjoyed by Orban's Fidesz party, critics say it tightens his grip on state bodies meant to be independent, including the judiciary and the central bank.
Bailly said the Commission had been the first to express its concerns over the planned reforms and went into lengthy detail on potential infringement proceedings should Budapest have failed to take EU notifications into account.
Infringement proceedings, that can include action before the European Court of Justice as well as fines, would take several months if initiated.
In December, the Commission and the International Monetary Fund broke off preliminary talks on a financial aid package of between 15 and 20 billion euros ($20-25 billion).
Brussels also called Wednesday on the Hungarian authorities to respect media pluralism after the country's sole opposition radio, Klubradio, had its broadcasting licence withdrawn in December.
Neelie Kroes, the Digital Agenda Commissioner, "encourages the Hungarian government to consider issuing additional radio licences" and "hopes that any non-successful bidders from recent and future bidding processes will find success as internet radio stations."