Hungary PM blasts EU 'blackmail' over IMF loan

Hungary PM blasts EU 'blackmail' over IMF loan

BUDAPEST- Agence France-Presse
Hungary PM blasts EU blackmail over IMF loan

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. REUTERS photo

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attacked the European Union for imposing political conditions on an EU-IMF loan desperately needed by Budapest, in an interview on Friday. "Creating political conditions -- for example over the justice system -- would amount to blackmail, which is unacceptable within the European Union," Orban told national radio MR1 in his weekly interview. "The International Monetary Fund (IMF) does not set financial conditions, but the EU is flirting with the idea of imposing political conditions," Orban added. Hungary asked the International Monetary Fund and European Union for a 15-20 billion euro ($20-26 billion) credit line last November, as the forint dropped to record low levels against the euro and borrowing costs rose to record highs.

 But Brussels later warned that any money would depend on Budapest proving its commitment to democratic principles.

 Orban's government has come under fire for a series of laws as well as a new constitution that critics say curb the independence of its central bank and judiciary, and limit press freedoms, among other things. Last month, the European Commission gave Hungary one month to bring two controversial laws -- on the judicial system and its data protection authority -- in line with EU principles or face court action.

 Orban is due to meet with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels on April 23.