Barosso and Orban swap letters on Hungary's constitutional amendments

History

Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, underlining “serious concerns” over the fourth amendment to Hungary's constitution, the European Commission's press office said on Friday. Orbán on Friday replied in a letter, saying he had put legislation in motion to address the concerns. Barroso indicated the Commission would take “necessary steps in order to start infringement procedures where relevant,” after a legal analysis by EC experts, the EC statement said. “I strongly appeal to you and to your government to address these concerns and to tackle them in a determined and unambiguous way. This is without doubts in the best interest of Hungary and of the EU as a whole,” Barroso wrote.
    In his response Orbán wrote: “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. I take this opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the Hungarian Government and the Hungarian Parliament to the European norms and values and to ensure the full cooperation of my Government in addressing the concerns you raised,’ Orbán added. Legislation related to the constitutional amendment, once passed by Parliament, will make it clear that the concerns are baseless, and the debate in Europe will subside, government spokesman András Giro-Szász said on public radio early Monday. The fourth amendment is only a framework, and a judgment on its democratic nature could only be made on the base of the ensuing legislation, he added.
    The Hungarian government has already submitted the related bills to Parliament, he said. Referring to the media law, Giro-Szász said the government is willing, as in the past, to discuss and amend details, if deemed necessary. Barroso' letter referred to the Commission concerns about conformity with EU law on the clause on European Court of Justice judgments entailing payment obligations, the powers given to the President of the National Office for the judiciary to transfer cases and, subject to a more detailed analysis, the restrictions on the publication of political advertisements. 
    Barroso also referred to the ongoing assessment of the recent amendments to the Hungarian Constitution conducted by the Venice Commission, which will prepare an opinion on 15-16 June. He underscored the close cooperation of the European Commission on this matter with the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission. Barroso also asked the Hungarian authorities to engage in a political dialogue with the European Parliament which will adopt in June a political resolution on “the situation of Fundamental Rights in Hungary: standards and practices.”

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