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Govt says informal talks with IMF, EU end; formal talks to start in Jan

Hungary’s informal talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission on a financial assistance package have ended, and formal talks will start in January, the Office of the Government Spokesman told MTI on Friday.

The office responded to a question by MTI after a spokesman for Vice President of the European Commission Olli Rehn said the talks had been broken off because of a proposed amendment affecting the National Bank of Hungary. Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said the decision to break off the talks was personally made by Mr Rehn.

Hungary said in November it was seeking financial assistance from the IMF and EC as a precautionary measure.

Janos Lazar, who heads the parliamentary group of governing Fidesz, said that, until now, the meetings with the IMF and EC representatives were social and for introductions. Whether these are successful or unsuccessful is another question, he added, speaking after an extraordinary meeting of the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary group.

He said the formal talks will start in January.

Hungary’s parliament is scheduled to debate a bill on the new Central Bank Act in an accelerated procedure on Friday. The act is necessary because of the country’s new constitution, which comes into force on January 1, 2012.

The bill would give the central bank more rate-setters and a third deputy governor as well as require the board of directors to submit their agenda to the government.

The European Central Bank said in an opinion issued on Thursday that the bill could be detrimental to the MNB’s independence.