News / Europe

Hungary Promises Changes After EU Threat in Amendment Row

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends stone laying ceremony for a new division of Knorr-Bremse factory in Kecskemet, April 11, 2013.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban attends stone laying ceremony for a new division of Knorr-Bremse factory in Kecskemet, April 11, 2013.
Reuters
Hungary promised on Friday to make changes after the EU executive threatened action to overturn constitutional amendments it said may be incompatible with European Union law.
 
The EU, the United States and human rights organizations have accused Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government of using constitutional amendments to limit the powers of Hungary's top court and undermine democracy in the former Soviet satellite.
 
In a letter to Orban, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that, based on an initial analysis, the Commission had serious concerns about the compatibility of the constitutional changes with EU legislation and the rule of law.
 
Once it has completed its legal analysis, the Commission "will have to take the necessary steps in order to start infringement procedures where relevant," Barroso told Orban.
 
He appealed to the prime minister, the leader of the nationalist Fidesz party, to "address these concerns and to tackle them in a determined and unambiguous way."
 
"This is without doubt in the best interest of Hungary and of the EU as a whole," Barroso wrote.
 
Orban assured Barroso in a reply that Hungary was committed to European norms and pledged full cooperation with Brussels to address its concerns.
 
"I certainly pay full attention to the points you raised and I should like to inform you that I have already initiated the necessary legislative steps to follow them up," he said in the letter published on his orbanviktor.hu website.
 
Orban earlier dismissed criticism that the constitutional changes are anti-democratic and last month challenged EU legal experts to present evidence if they had any problems.
 
Barroso's letter said the Commission was particularly concerned about the legality of constitutional changes relating to European Court of Justice judgments entailing payment obligations.
 
It also raised concerns about powers given to the president of the national office for the judiciary to transfer cases, and restrictions on the publication of political advertisements.
 
The forint currency eased slightly after news of Barroso's letter to trade at 295.45 against the euro at 1348 GMT, but stayed near six-week highs hit earlier in the day at 294 as foreign investors encouraged by Japan's monetary stimulus continue to buy high-yielding assets in emerging markets.
 
Orban, a 49-year-old conservative who made his name as a young dissident when Hungary was behind the Iron Curtain, has overseen a rewrite of the constitution and four revisions.
 
He has imposed swingeing "crisis taxes" on some foreign firms and forced banks to write off some of the foreign currency debt owned by Hungarian households.
 
His opponents accuse him of harming Hungarian democracy and gambling with economic stability. The EU says he has eroded the independence of the courts, the media, the central bank and other institutions, pulling Hungary out of Europe's mainstream.
 
A deputy governor in Hungary's central bank resigned on Monday in protest at what she said was a campaign by Orban appointees to reduce the bank to a rubber-stamp for risky economic policies.
 
Orban says he has saved Hungary from a Greek-style economic collapse, his reforms are democratic because he won a huge majority in a 2010 election, and he is under attack because he threatens the interests of foreign business lobbies.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More