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Parliament approves amendments to Fundamental Law

Parliament on Monday approved the fourth set of amendments to Hungary's Fundamental Law, or constitution, by a vote of 265:11 with 33 abstentions.
    The 22-article set of amendments contain many pieces of former transitional legislation and stipulations that Hungary's Constitutional Court previously declared unconstitutional.
    Members of Parliament from the Hungarian Socialist Party and the Democratic Coalition did not participate in the vote.
    One of the amendments that Parliament approved on Monday introduces the possibility of levying a kind of tax, called "contribution" if a decision by the European Court, the Constitutional Court or other judicial bodies would cause extra government expenditure as long as Hungary's state debt exceeds the 50% of GDP threshold which is also contained in the constitution. The rule existed earlier as part of transitional legislation.
    Other amendments approved on Monday annul all Constitutional Court decisions issued prior to January 1 of this year, limits Constitutional Court examination of the Fundamental Law and its amendment to issues related to procedure and proclamation, and make it possible to prosecute hate speech and to pass laws or local-council regulations proscribing living on the street.
    Parliament voted for in favor of the constitutional amendments despite warnings from the EU, the U.S. government and human rights groups that the changes could undermine Hungary's democracy.
    "These amendments raise concerns with respect to the principle of the rule of law, EU law and Council of Europe standards," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement with the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland.
    Barroso and Jagland said they expected Hungarian authorities to be open to talks "to address any concerns raised as to the compatibility of these amendments with European principles and EU law."