EU issues legal threat over Hungarian constitution

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The Independent Online

The European Commission has launched legal challenges against Hungary's new constitution amid concerns that the former Soviet-bloc country may be slipping back into authoritarianism.

The EU executive is concerned that aspects of the constitution violate EU laws on the independence of the national central bank, among other issues. It has requested more information from Viktor Orban's government on independence of the judiciary. "Hungary is a key member of the European family and we do not want a shadow of a doubt on the respect for democratic principles and values," said the Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Mr Orban has been under fire from the European Parliament for imposing government control over institutions whose independence is protected by EU treaties. Beside the central bank law, which gives the government a much larger role in naming top bank officials, the EU is objecting to the forced early retirement of hundreds of judges.

Budapest has until 17 February to respond to three formal letters, after which the Commission will analyse the responses. If Hungary ignores further requests for changes, the Commission can take it to the European Court of Justice and levy fines.

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